Reading has undeniable benefits for your child’s cognitive development. In fact, children who read books often at age 10 and more than once a week at age 16 gain higher results in maths, vocabulary and spelling tests at age 16 than those who read less regularly.
But beyond the pure intellectual benefit, reading also has the potential to tackle increased stress and anxiety, a common concern in light of the 2020 pandemic. A 2009 study at the University of Sussex found that reading can reduce stress by up to 68%, and works better and faster than other relaxation methods, such as listening to music or drinking a hot cup of tea.
When we read, we’re able to access a literary world free from the stressors of daily life. By setting up the right conditions for reading, we’re able to give our children a gift that they’ll take with them well into adulthood. In order to make that happen, here are some top tips for making reading a part of their daily lives.
Find the right books
Get to know your child and where their interests lay. By finding the style of book your child enjoys and providing easy access to them, you can increase the chances of them developing a passion for reading. Nearly three-quarters of kids aged 6–17 (74%) responded to the Scholastic Kids study that they would read more if they could find more books that they like.
Parents should always encourage their children to experience a range of genres and types of writing, whether that’s from books purchased and kept on a shelf at home, via the local library, or material found online.
Move away from traditional or school-sanctioned books and explore a wider range of texts, from graphic novels to online articles. Many texts mix genres, which is a great way to introduce your kids to new genres. Great fantasy books can make great adventure stories, for example.
Remember, this doesn’t mean you need to go out and spend a fortune on new copies of the latest hardbacks: libraries, charity shops, local book swap programs and even backyard sales are all great places to get books either free of charge or incredibly cheaply.
Make reading an active experience
Try getting involved in a text by reading along with your children, taking on a role or a page each. Children are more likely to enjoy reading if they see others get enjoyment from it.
Reading aloud to your children doesn’t have to stop as soon as they get to a certain age: there’s no reason you can’t continue the tradition for as long as possible. Research has found that many children find this actively enjoyable and beneficial far beyond the early years.
Another great way to encourage your child to interact with a text is by getting them to keep a journal about what they’ve been reading. This is also a great chance for some creative writing by asking them to continue a chapter using their own imagination, or perhaps rewrite a scene they’ve already read in their own words. There’s lots of evidence to show that reading skills are actively improved by writing, and vice versa.
Look out for reading-related local community events, too. Your local library may have author reading sessions or the council may have an illustrator running workshops and talking about their stories. If your area remains in lockdown, search out virtual events and live streams from authors. Suddenly, reading goes from a solo activity to an interactive live experience.
Build both time and space for reading
The pandemic has made personal space difficult to achieve, especially since an increasing number of parents and siblings are working and learning at home almost 24/7. Nevertheless, it’s worth attempting to create a quiet, distraction-free area for your child to read in peace. This should be a space without any technological distractions, and could be either inside or outside.
One potential benefit of the pandemic is that we all have a lot more time to kill. With sporting events, after school activities and friend visits reduced, there’s a lot more time in the day to focus on activities such as reading. A routine is paramount in sustaining children’s commitment to reading, and maintaining regular, consistent time and space to read is one of the best ways to achieve that.
It’s also important that as adults, we take the time to build our own reading habits. Children learn from watching their parents, so by increasing your own reading hours, you’ll no doubt be increasing your child’s too.
Article by William Roberts, Head of Library at Waverley College
William has worked in education for over 20 years. His early career saw him teach English in Japan followed by teaching at Blacktown Boys High School followed by his Head of Library Services role at Waverley College. William has specialist literacy qualifications trained in English, ESL and Literacy. William has also been a HSC marker for 6 years. William’s professional interests are the role of audio books, wide reading and scaffolded texts to enhance reading success.
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