Every now and then someone asks me why reading is SO important. Why do we keep going on about the importance of reading – if your child knows how to read, does it really matter if they only read at school? Surely some children just don’t enjoy reading, like some don’t enjoy playing a musical instrument or don’t enjoy playing sports?
Well, just like it’s important to encourage children to take part in sports – whether its their favourite activity or not – reading is vitally important for your child’s academic progress and the development of their empathy and understanding of the world. Close the world of books and you close their minds to so many beautiful words, teachings and experiences. Reading opens minds and opportunities. There’s another important reason to read: it will improve their chances of succeeding in life.
But don’t just take my word for it. My daughter’s high school recently sent out the letter below. A week later my younger daughter’s primary school sent out a reading task list for the holidays. Teachers know. Reading is more important than ever. Take the task.
Dr Stephanie Grottwald, a reading and language researcher from Tufts University, Boston, USA, presented an informative talk to teachers during the examination period on deep reading and comprehension. Students’ ability to read beyond a text relies on developing a bank of words. This vocabulary knowledge helps form connections in the brain which are integral for reading with meaning. People who read regularly for pleasure form around five million of these connections a year. Those who only read what is required of them, form less than half a million connections annually.
The current Form I group is characterised by their weak vocabulary. This makes decoding questions difficult and pupils struggle to use their own words when answering questions. Analysing figurative language is particularly challenging for reluctant readers.
Form II requires an increased level of cognitive academic language. Students who are not regular readers start to find the vocabulary demands daunting. This includes the ability to pick up on nuance, conjecture and subtlety. Regular reading sharpens comprehension skills, develops enquiring minds, bolsters vocabulary and is a perfect way to unwind after a busy day.
The reading race
Girls need to read at least one of each of the following six tasks:
- a magazine
- a poem
- a graphic novel
- a short story
- a prize-winning book
- a novel someone else has recommended
Each month set your child these goals – the more they can complete the better – and consider a reward for the more reluctant readers!