The benefits of personal reading

The topic under discussion at our most recent Find Out Friday event was ‘The benefits of personal reading’. There is evidence to show that a pupil who reads for just 20 minutes a day will, in one school year, have read the equivalent of 3,600 minutes and have encountered 1,800,000 words. There is further evidence to show that reading, whilst having the obvious positive impact on literacy skills, also impacts positively on the pupils’ numeracy development.

So how do we develop this love of reading?

Research has repeatedly shown that motivation to read decreases with age, especially if pupils’ attitudes towards reading become less positive. If children do not enjoy reading when they are young, then they are unlikely to do so when they get older. The place of reading in the home is particularly crucial in developing this love of reading, and so the questions to be answered are:

  • Does your children see you reading at home?
  • How much time are you able to give to sharing books with your children?
  • Do your children know what reading for enjoyment looks like?

We all live in a busy world where demands on our time are high, but as parents I would encourage you to think about your role in your child’s learning and ask you to consider the following:

  • Take time to sit down and read with your child: in my experience there is no better activity than enjoying a book with your child. You develop a closeness and shared experience which will last a lifetime and help to develop a strong bond.
  • Enjoy the world of picture books for as long as you can: when you share a picture book you are able, through shared discussion, to develop skills of inference and prediction, of character analysis and opinion about the style and content of the book. These are skills your child will need as they move through their education. Starting to develop them at a young age is a definite bonus. As your child becomes older you can also look at aspects of grammar and spelling.
  • Do not hurry your child onto chapter books: when children learn to read they are excited about moving on to chapter books, but try not to hurry them on and try not to miss out any authors along the way. Age appropriate books are always to be recommended.

It is good to remember that reading encompasses all types of books and publications, including magazines, newspapers, comics and factual books. They all constitute reading and are great ways for you to demonstrate and share reading for enjoyment with your child.

Some children find it hard to develop a love of fiction, but are drawn to more factual types of literature and your child’s innate preferences should always be taken into account when you are trying to foster their love of reading.

As children get older, they quite naturally develop the skill of reading in their heads and this is always a great landmark in reading development and is to be encouraged. It does mean that sharing a book becomes more of a challenge, but you can still question your child about their reading. I would also recommend that occasionally you both read the same book, as well as continue to have a shared reading out loud time, to help your child continue to develop their fluency and expression and their public reading voice – all great life skills.

Reading allows us to travel to many different worlds and certainly opens up our minds. I think we should all give ourselves time to escape and when doing so with your children you can relax in the knowledge that taking time to read is educationally beneficial to your child and will help develop a closeness and shared experience between you and your child. These positive experiences will benefit your relationship with your child for many years to come.

Norma Murray,  Head of Junior School, St Margaret’s School for Girls, Aberdeen

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