Few would dispute that reading is one of the most vital skills that children need to learn. It is, of course, all the more vital for pupils learning in a bilingual environment like Huili’s. But why exactly is reading so fundamental to a child’s development? How can we ensure that children develop good reading habits that will give them every chance of fulfilling their potential? This article will introduce some of the main benefits that reading can bring and suggest approaches that can be adopted at home and in school to encourage good reading habits.
The benefits of reading
The first and perhaps most obvious benefit of reading is that children who read develop a wider vocabulary and a deeper understanding of grammar, consequently becoming far more capable users of language. While this is important for monolingual learners, it is crucial for learners of additional languages. Pupils at Huili, enjoy plenty of exposure to authentic English language usage during the school day, yet this may not necessarily carry over to the rest of the day once school ends. Reading in English outside school hours provides ready access to the English language wherever the child may be, leading to quicker and deeper language acquisition.
The advantages of reading go far beyond the development of language skills, however. Research has shown that those who read regularly demonstrate higher confidence, increased empathy and improved decision-making skills. They also benefit from an increased attention span and improved focus, which in turn lead to better study habits generally. Furthermore, enthusiastic readers tend to be more successful in life. Well-known figures as diverse as Warren Buffet, Oprah Winfrey, Bill Gates and Barack Obama have repeatedly acknowledged the role reading has played in achieving their goals by helping them develop a stronger sense of independence and enquiry.
How to encourage good reading habits
The most important thing we can do to help children become enthusiastic readers is to make reading a fun and enjoyable activity. Consequently, it is a good idea to allow children a large degree of freedom in choosing what they read. While it may be tempting to push pupils to read challenging or complex subjects that appear to have great academic value, this can in fact have a detrimental effect, lowering their overall interest in reading. Reading should never feel like a chore or additional homework. Instead, we must encourage children to look forward to reading by getting them to think about what they would like to read next. A reading list drawn up by the child is an enjoyable and proactive way to do this and it helps make each new book feel like a treat.
Additionally, we can model the reading behaviour that we hope to instil in children. If parents and other family members are seen to read often, it becomes something that children will seek to mimic. Of course, reading is also a great activity for parents and children to do together, and the value of parents reading to their children has long been recognised. This applies to older pupils too, as parents can continue to encourage their love of reading by taking an active interest. Asking children to explain what has happened so far in the story and to speculate on what might happen next is an effective way to build curiosity and the necessary motivation to keep reading. Children love the chance to show off what they have learned, and parents can easily and helpfully push them to further explore their understanding of any given book.
From a practical point of view, the well-stocked school library is an invaluable source of great reading materials. If your child has not borrowed a book recently, suggest that they do so. Their teachers and the school librarians will be able to make suggestions if they are unsure what to read. Another useful idea is to make sure that children always carry a book with them wherever they are. You never know when there will be a spare few minutes to pass, and having a good book to hand makes it far more likely that this will be done in a productive way.
A habit for life
By taking some of the steps outlined above, we can ensure that children become keen and capable readers. The effective reading skills that children develop now will be invaluable for them both at school and in their futures beyond the education years, regardless of the paths they take. Reading is a habit for life and something that we take great pride in promoting at Huili.