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Reading’s still best

I’m often asked ‘What is the best thing a child can do to improve their English?’ My first answer, regardless of whether English is the child’s native language or not, is always ‘Develop a love for reading and read as much as possible

Research shows that reading makes a huge difference to children’s educational performance. It suggests that children who read for pleasure every day will not only perform better in reading tests than those students who don’t, but will also develop a wider vocabulary, better general knowledge and a deeper understanding of other cultures. Many children have fairly limited experience and knowledge of the world, but reading opens windows seen through different eyes.

It exposes children to a range of new vocabulary and actually helps that vocabulary to stick. Vocabulary is not learned by a single exposure; children need to see words and phrases in context on multiple occasions to really understand them and to be able to use them themselves. Reading a range of books gives children this opportunity.

Reading also improves children’s writing, both in accuracy and in content. Children become familiar with grammatically accurate sentences, which they can base their own writing on, and their imaginations are stimulated, leading to more original writing. Reading regularly is, in fact, beneficial for all language skills, not just reading skills.

The important thing to note, however, is that the research majors on the benefits of reading for pleasure. Reading should be enjoyable and not seen as an extra bit of schoolwork. And that is why my advice is to develop a love of reading. A child should develop their own passion, but parents can have a role in this:

Read aloud to children from birth, even before they can properly engage Read yourself: children who see adults reading, and enjoying it, are much more likely to want to read themselves Read together: make it part of your routine and an activity you enjoy together Make books available to your child: this doesn’t mean you need to buy hundreds of books to have at home, but go to the library or the bookshop regularly, spend time together, browse and make choices. Make reading a habit Help your child to think about what interests them and help them find books that will be engaging and fun

Children who aren’t properly engaged with reading, will not reap the benefits. The aim is to get children reading and help them to find a love for it. Turning children off by giving them books they’re not interested in or books that are too challenging is a serious mistake. We need to think about the individual child and choose books appropriately. It’s important to remember that reading something is better than reading nothing.

The article was published in Education Post on 05 Sep 2017

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