Habits are that aspect of a human’s personality that helps in defining it. We tend to pass on several personality defining habits to our next generation. Out of all those, the most important habit that we can inculcate in our children, to help them succeed in life, is the habit of reading. Reading is one of the most fundamental skills that a child must learn. It forms the basis for all further learning. Reading enhances a child’s vocabulary, increases their curiosity for knowledge and develops their imagination and creativity.
Studies have shown that there is a link between reading abilities and intelligence. The stronger a person’s early reading skills, the more intelligent they are likely to become. A 2014 study published in the journal Child Development found that children with better reading skills by the age of 7 years scored higher on IQ tests than those with weaker reading skills.
I know, as parents, we do everything we can to improve our child’s academic performance. I wish to share with you a small list of activities you can conduct with your child to improve their reading skills and I wish to also share with you the long list of benefits that these small activities can have on your child’s development. Being active and well informed parents, I am sure, you must already be conducting some or all of these activities already. In which case, this article will prove to be a little validation of your efforts.
For infants, toddlers and preschoolers, you must have a fixed amount of time set aside every day to read. Bedtime stories work best as you do not have to take time out of your day for it and you can make bedtime more appealing to your child. Hearing you tell them a story will help your child become familiar with sounds, words and language. If you can play act the stories, speaking in the voices of the characters, making facial expressions to go with the words, not only will this increase your child’s interest but your child will also pick up communication and conversation skills.
Reading with them
As you read a story repeatedly for them, slowly you can move towards letting them read it for themselves. You can place the book in their hands and read along with them. This will introduce them to alphabet shapes and words and sentences and it will build their confidence towards learning to read.
For preschoolers and school going children, you can increase their curiosity about the world around them by reading with them. Start by having them read the labels on boxes and jars, text on clothing like t-shirt quotes, signs and posters on the street or in shops, menus in a restaurant and the headlines in a newspaper. For older children, you can read the newspaper articles with them and encourage them to find out the meanings of the words they do not know.
As parents, it is our job to make sure we introduce our children to the most educational and interesting books.
Reading to them in other languages
Most of us know at least two languages – our mother tongue and English. Reading to our children in more than one language is beneficial to develop their abilities. Bilingual children outperform children who speak only one language in arithmetic, problem-solving skills and creative thinking. This is because of the mental alertness required to switch between languages, which could develop skills useful in other types of thinking.
Advantages of Reading:
- Reading develops language skills and vocabulary – The more books a child reads, the more likely they are to come across words and phrases that may not be a part of your everyday conversation.
- Increases reading speed – Reading more and more everyday increases a child’s reading speed and speed of grasping a concept. This benefits the child in later schooling when curriculum tends to be vast and time for studying is limited.
- Exercises your child’s brain – Reading stimulates brain activity. It not only increases a child’s knowledge but also makes them think on the subject, to analyse the data they have read and to draw their own conclusions.
- Enhances a child’s concentration – Reading is like a form of meditation. When one is reading, one is completely immersed in that activity to the exclusion of all external disturbances. Reading, thus, increases a child’s concentration and attention span.
- Reading together encourages a thirst for knowledge – When you read with your child, you encourage their curiosity. They will want to keep finding out more information about the topic you read about together. They will ask you questions about the topic. If you are careful to choose from a wide range of topics, you can teach your child about a variety of subjects such as history, various cultures, world news and so on. And they will be eager to hear and learn.
- A range of books teaches children about different topics – Parents and teachers should collaborate on a reading list for children of all age groups. That way, we can ensure a child reads about maximum possible topics.
- Develops a child’s imagination and creativity – When we read a story, we imagine the characters, we imagine their features, their gestures. We imagine the story setting, the more an author describes the location and scenery, the clearer picture we paint of it in our minds. This boosts a child’s imagination and creativity.
- Develops empathy – When a child gets engaged in a story, they can imagine themselves in the position of the characters. They can feel what the character is feeling. This develops empathy. For younger children, this can help them relate to and understand emotions.
- Books are a form of entertainment – Books are a pastime that is actually good for your child. Having them read a book or reading it to them is definitely much better than letting them watch TV for hours everyday or play games on phones and tablets.
- Finding the best words – The purpose of all language is to be able to succinctly express your thoughts and emotions. Having a good vocabulary will help your child express themselves better. A phrase or a quote from their favorite book or favorite poem can stay with them long after they have read the book.
- Making sense of the world – Psychologists have found that people who write down their worries, and then read over what they have written, find it easier to make sense of their problems – and find solutions to them.
“A book is the only place in which you can examine a fragile thought without breaking it.”
–Edward P. Morgan
Great readers make for great writers as well. The logical next step to reading is writing. To process all of the information that a child has gained by reading. Putting it into their own words helps cement the knowledge better. Writing provides an outlet to their thoughts. Sometimes it can provide clarity to the jumble inside their heads. We should encourage our children to keep a diary or a journal and write in it. It could be of regular everyday events or of their thoughts, feelings and reflections.
Mrs. Varsha Sharma