Any parent of a school age child will know that learning to read is a significant part reading of a child’s school life. But what exactly are the benefits to a child of taking pleasure in reading books, and how can you support this at home?
Research by The Reading Agency indicates that reading for pleasure – so not just the ability to read, but the child’s choice to read for the sheer joy of it – is the single most important factor in a child’s later success and happiness in life; it ranks more highly in the statistics even than their parents’ wealth, for example.
Currently, there is also a large gap in achievement between secondary school students who read books for pleasure, and those who do not; so enabling and encouraging a child to read what they want from a younger age will help them as their schooling progresses too.
Reading for pleasure has many non-school based benefits: it can increase empathy, improve relationships with others, reduce the symptoms of depression and improve wellbeing throughout life. Students who read for pleasure make significantly more progress, not only in vocabulary and spelling, but also in maths, than children who read very little.
Enjoying a book with a pre-school child can bring huge benefits to them later on, when you’ve finished a book, take the time to talk about it together: did they like the story, what did they think of the characters, what was their favourite illustration? For an older child learning to read or a child who is just about reading independently, the single most important thing you can do is genuinely allow them to choose what they read. Libraries are a great, and free, way to allow your child to explore.
There is a significant correlation too between a child who has been allowed a genuine choice in their reading, and their commitment and enjoyment in it. So, while it is tempting to make a choice for them, taking them to a library and allowing them to choose for themselves, will boost their reading significantly. Reading comic books and non-fiction absolutely counts as reading, and is valid and valuable. Don’t fall into the mistake of thinking that only fiction counts as ‘proper’ reading, lots of children prefer non-fiction. And there is some brilliant storytelling in comic form being published today too. So even if it isn’t what you would choose, accepting their choice is extremely important!
Written for Raring2go! by Tamsin Rosewell, Kenilworth Books.
Images: credit Reading Agency