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Education|06 July 2022

Parenting Hacks: Tips and tricks to improve your child’s reading skills

Currently working in Pinegrove School in Kasauli Hills, Archana Nughaal is an educationist with over 14 years of experience. Her certifications include Army Commander's Commendation, Management & Personality Development DSSC, Wellington and MBA from Utkal University.

Right from the moment you find out that you’re expecting your first child, you are bombarded about the benefits of reading. And for good reason. The benefits of reading at every stage of your child’s development are enormous. Research suggests that kids learn about reading even before they enter school and they do it through keen observation. When they see people around them reading newspapers, books, maps and signs. The magical breakthrough moment is when children exhibit an interest in letters, and start making words on a page. It can happen at different ages for different children, even if they belong to the same family. 

The traditional learning methods have been built around the LSRW skills of Listening, Speaking, Reading, Writing.

  • Listening is one of the formative learning skills that the kids acquire, especially when they listen to their parents.
  • Speaking, the second expertise helps in communicating and expressing one’s thoughts and feelings in a spoken language.
  • Reading, regarded as one of the most pivotal aspects in the learning process, encourages one to absorb, begin, create, explore, develop and interpret information.
  • Writing is the stage of learning and understanding after reading.

This LSRW sequence is nature’s way of developing a child’s brain. However, reading and writing often take precedence in our education system over the other two. Come to think of it, these skills essentially work in pairs. When you’re reading or listening, you are consuming knowledge and when you’re writing or speaking, you’re producing information. With that in mind, let’s take a look at the importance of reading for kids and how it proves to be impactful, right from an early age. 

Importance of reading for kids

Inculcating a habit of story reading for kids from an early age, even before they can understand words, teaches them to associate books with love and affection. After all, a child who reads will turn into an adult who thinks. Apart from being a magical portal that takes them to different dimensions, exploring and discovering new realities, reading is also a fundamental activity for the child’s overall development. 

Here’s how:

  • Improves concentration and memory
  • Builds vocabulary
  • Enhances imagination and creativity
  • Helps in discovering other parts of the world
  • A powerful brain exercise
  • Boosts critical thinking skills
  • Develops empathy
  • Develops and expands language skills
  • Better performance in school
  • Source of entertainment
  • Develops a good self-image
  • Makes the child a self-learner

In the early elementary years, children continue learning how to read. Being a complex process, some find it difficult while others find it easier. During these early years, as a parent you must ensure not to overemphasize the learning-to-read process. After all, there is no ‘correct’ age for independent reading, and obviously no special formula for getting every child to read. Here’s a list of reading milestones by age of 6 years and above. Remember, kids develop reading skills at their own sweet pace, so they need not necessarily fit exactly as per the timetable.

Here’s how your child will respond to reading:

Younger grade (ages 6-7 years)

  • Learn spelling rules
  • Improve reading speed and fluency
  • Self-monitor by re-reading words/sentences that they don’t understand
  • Make a connection of what they are reading to personal experiences and other books they have read

Older grade (ages 8-10 years)

  • Shift from learning to read to reading to learn
  • Explore different genres
  • Describe the setting, characters and plot of a story
  • Compare and contrast information from different texts

Middle and High School (ages 11-14 years)

  • Possess an expanded vocabulary and read more complex texts
  • Analyze, synthesize and evaluate ideas from the text
  • Understand satire, sarcasm, irony and understatement

How can you inculcate habits of English reading in kids?

A majority of parents read stories to their kids when they are too young to read by themselves. This helps instil a love for reading and can be crucial for their language skills, independence and emotional development. If you want your child to be excited about reading, you should be, too. These precious years when your child is living at home, observing your approach to life, are a great time to nurture your own reading habits.

Here are a few tips on how you, as a parent, can help build their reading skills:

  • Start early – Reading to your infant may seem like a futile exercise but those are the crucial seeds that you will sow for their future. Investing in some cloth books, touch and feel books, puppet books and board books will be a good place to start.
  • It’s all in the picture – Books with rich illustrations such as pop-up books or books with 3D images are an ideal buy. They will associate visuals with text and thus learn new words and expressions.
  • Let them choose – Making your child pick a book of their own choice will ensure more interest.
  • Encore, as many times as it takes – Every kid, undoubtedly, has a favourite book and will ask for the same story over and over again. This is an indicator of their desire to learn more about the story.
  • Set an example – Habits and enthusiasm are always contagious. Children learn by imitation. So as a parent, ensure you read a fair number of books yourself and inspire your kids to follow.
  • Be consistent – Whether it’s one book per day or 15, try to make reading a part of their regular routine. It doesn’t have to be a different story every time. 
  • Take your time – Your child should see reading as a dedicated activity and one that you give your full attention to.
  • Make it fun – Use different voices, songs and theatrics to bring the story alive. It also provides an excellent model of expressive and fluent reading.
  • Point out connections – Kids simply love applying stories to their own lives. Besides making the text more meaningful, it can also help your child cope with different situations from their everyday life. 
  • Add a bit of variety – Let the kid’s reading material vary – some can be for plain reading enjoyment while others can have information about hobbies and interests.
  • Don’t stop with books – An exchange of words is beneficial to kids. You can go beyond books and encourage activities that require reading, such as recipes, instruction manuals of toys, directions and so on. Why not share short notes with your kid to read?!
  • Create a cosy reading corner – It not only promotes the love for books, but it also becomes your child’s own special/safe place to unwind. If there’s space constraint, just put floor cushions on a mat and name it something fancy like THE DEAR (Drop Everything And Read) CORNER.
  • Read it aloud – This practice helps the reader consistently remember words and texts better than if they read them silently.
  • Give screen time a miss – Let the cartoons, videos, games and mobile phones take a breather and get together as a family to discuss books instead. 
  • Consider a birthday party book-swap – Ask guests to bring a wrapped book instead of gifts and let everyone choose one on the way out. It’s much better than goody bags filled with candies or toys, and teaches children that books can be special too. 
  • Make room for comics – Don’t overlook your child’s interest in this genre. A majority of  celebrated literary figures of our time grew up devouring comics. In fact, many children become avid readers through their love of comics.
  • Visit a library – Take your kid to a library and as the kid understands the workings of a library, ask them to bring a book home so that they can read it out to their younger siblings or anyone at home for that matter. 
  • Books, books and more books – Fill your house with as many books as possible. Let the kids have a sense of belonging and attachment towards books.

The way your child’s brain develops can depend on various factors that may very well be beyond your control. Every child develops at his or her own unique pace. So don’t just jump to the conclusion that your child is ‘falling behind’. If you’re struggling with English reading for kids, consult with your child’s  teacher, work closely and monitor their progress. And of course, be a willing participant to help in the progression.Lastly, books don’t just affect an individual; they affect society.

A great scholar once said:

“The history of a person’s thought development is his reading history. The community will develop or stay behind, depending on how many people read books and what type of books they choose.
A race without reading is a race without hope.
And so is a child, so is a young person.”

The views expressed are that of the expert alone.

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