Updated: May 16, 2021
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I love reading!
Reading a good book is like finding treasure and getting lost in its world of words. Brilliant writers paint beautiful pictures with their words. As parents and educators, we do not need convincing about the joys and importance of reading. We have also written about it in our blog post, Learn How to Judge a Book by its Cover May 2020 by our guest writer Priya Iyer of KidsMustRead.com
In our new blog series, BOOST, we are upping the ante and providing you with more practical tips and research-backed ideas to boost what you are already doing at home or school. Whether you're a parent, educator or a 'curiositor', this blog series is for you to help children read better.
To read independently is to be able to read text such as books, magazines and newspapers with minimal adult assistance. However, the range of texts in today’s world goes beyond the traditional print materials. Children today will read online journal articles, blog posts and news articles. Your child may have been reading for 3 months, 3 years or even a decade but reading is a complex skill that needs to be lovingly cultivated and taught throughout a child’s school career.
Reading is more than just sounding out individual words verbally or in your head. It is more than being able to read a sentence and understanding that particular sentence. It is about bringing all those many, many sentences together and conceptualising the content.
The key to developing good and confident readers is to show them HOW to think.
1. Asking the questions that matter
To show children HOW to think is to ask the questions that matter. Go beyond, What are you reading? How did you find the book? or Did you enjoy the book? To prepare children to think analytically and critically, consider:
questions about books
-What made this an interesting or not an interesting book?
-Which was your favourite part of the book? Why?
-Compared to the first book in the series, was this any better/worse?
questions about articles and research materials
-Did the article provide the information you needed?
-What site might you next visit in order to get the information you need? -What makes the content on the first web page better than the other?
-How do you know if the information provided is reliable?
Why questions matter and how do they build independent reading?
Once your child realises that reading is not just about remembering or understanding, information, which are the lowest and most basic form of comprehending texts, they will in the future, take the time to consider the why's and how's.
Of course, this is not a one-off event. As parents and teachers, we need to be there constantly reinforcing the idea of analytical and critical thinking.
I have built this into all my reading lessons and they work wonders. The more children are familiar with the patterns of questioning and how to respond, the better they will process information and grow in confidence when reading increasingly complex texts.
2. Going beyond the text
As busy parents, we might not always have the time to delve deeper into the content of the book our child is reading, but where possible, do go beyond the text. Make the content real. Connect it with their lives. Research shows that by associating new learning with real-world examples, we remember the new knowledge better. Exploit the benefits of social media – Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook – where authors post interviews and videos. The more children can see themselves in literature, that literature is modern and not old and dead, the more likely they are to pick up a new book.
Another motivating link is pairing books with movies. We love doing this in our home. My daughter gets very excited when she has read a good series and there is a movie to match. This is another great opportunity to build analytical thinking in your child. In our home, once the movie is done, we talk about the differences in the style of storytelling, discuss characterisation and which we preferred.
3. Dedicate time to reading
Set aside some family time to read together. I love curling up on my sofa with a cup of tea and a book I can get lost in. Once I’m settled in and the house is calm, that is usually a sign for my daughter to sit next to me. And we read together. And without a doubt, she will ask me about my book. I love talking about books. This is not only a great way to talk about what you are reading but a chance to introduce your child to different genres of writing. You may be reading the Harvard Business Review, a motivational book or even your study notes from a course you are doing. Nothing says ‘reading is good’ like a positive role model actually reading, reading, reading, in the home.
4. “Try on” different books
Reading can be a hit and miss especially when you decide to ‘try on’ a new author or genre. But this is part and parcel of the reading journey. If a book cover interests your child, ask them to pick it and have a go. In my reading classes, I encourage children to read the blurb, then the first few pages of the book. If the child feels drawn to the author’s style of narration, then BINGO! But if the child says they do not like it, all is not lost. This is another learning opportunity. Consider asking, What did you not like about the first few pages? Was it the way it was written? The characters? The font? The layout?
It is important for children to be able to articulate about what engages them and what does not. Being critical readers helps boost their confidence in picking out new books for themselves in the future. And a rather important point to note is, It is ok to not like a book. This in itself means that your child is aware of what sorts of books they might enjoy. Make this another learning opportunity and talk about how you have had a few misses too when it comes to selecting a book.
BOOSTING a child’s reading goes beyond sitting quietly with a book. It involves a child being cognitively engaged with the content, having the ability to articulate what they have read and with guidance, the confidence to discuss the book.