As a middle school reading teacher, I am always answering parent questions about what they can be doing at home to help their kids with reading. If a parent of one of my students doesn’t ask, I’m guaranteed to tell them anyways. I love hearing this question and I love answering it because there are a million and one things that parents can be doing to help their kids become more involved in reading. As somebody who has taught classes from fourth grade to high school seniors, and as somebody who worked as a reading clinician for students from ages five to forty eight, I’d like to think I know what it takes to make a good reader.
I think the most important place to start, is to talk about why reading is so important. I have no doubt that any parent reading this post recognizes the importance of reading, but when you look at what makes it so essential, it is actually quite fascinating.
Reason #1: Reading Helps Build Your Vocabulary
As much as we like to think that vocabulary is learned with flashcards, most of the words people pick up and use are acquired organically. Our children learn to speak by listening to us talk, so it isn’t surprising when they use the same words we do (for better or worse). A kid who has frequent exposure to books, also has a constant exposure to new vocabulary. Every time a kid reads a new book, they’re likely to come across a few words they have never seen before. If they have use for them, they’ll snatch them right up. Not only does a big vocabulary allow your child to communicate more clearly, but some studies suggest that people with larger vocabularies are more successful later in life.
Reason #2: Reading Helps Improve School Performance
There are dozen reasons this works, so I will only point out a few. Kids who are frequent and regular readers are simply exposed to more concepts and ideas. It is possible then, that kids will have some exposure to topics that are brought up in class. The more you read, the more words you know, which makes for fewer words to figure out in the classroom. This is also directly tied to reason #3.
Reason #3: Reading is Practice and Practice Makes Perfect.
I tell my students that Lebron James didn’t become the basketball player he is today by accident. I explained that he has spent hours practicing every aspect of his game, to allow him to be one of the best basketball players out there today. It is the same with reading. The more a kid reads at home, the easier it is for them to do at school, or in other situations where it really matters.
Reason #4: Reading Helps You Learn More About The World
Somebody has written a book about nearly every topic you can think of. Sure, you can get a little goofy and argue that nobody has written a book about the particulars of traditional Antarctic Cuisine, but for the things people care about, there is a book somewhere about it. The simple act of reading just opens so many doors. I’ve learned all sorts of things about science, history, psychology and education from the non-fiction books I’ve read, but I’ve learned just as many things from the fictional stories I’ve read as well. Unique characters and a variety of settings just open you up to all sorts of new concepts and ideas.
Reason #5: Reading is Cheap/Free Entertainment
Reading, when it is part of a personal habit, is a wonderful source of entertainment and relaxation. If I ever feel the need to unwind, all I need to do is crack open a book and I am good to go. Once your kids are old enough to read for themselves, reading time becomes quiet time. When you consider how amazing the Cincinnati Public Library system is, your free library card will give you access to just about any book you could want. Cincinnati also has a variety of new and used bookstores to choose as well. Just think of how many books you could pick up for the price of a new X-Box. It’s quite the bargain.
Reason #6: Reading Improve Writing
In his book “On Writing” one of Stephen King’s most important bits of advice is that all writers are readers. The constant exposure to the written world helps kids understand how sentences are formed, as well as the function and purpose of grammar and punctuation. Reading well crafted sentences provides young readers with an endless stream of examples from which to learn. All of that reading, and all of those examples makes itself evident when it is time for a reader to produce sentences , paragraphs, papers, and stories of their own.
Reason #7: Reading Builds Imagination
We will talk about this a lot more later, but good readers, when they comprehend what they read, create pictures and images in their minds. Those pictures tend to stick around. The more ideas and images somebody puts into their head, the more likely they are to play around with them. This is what imagination is all about, the ability to play around with different concepts, ideas, characters, and create new things with them. This aspect also helps reading ignite your child’s passion for new concepts and ideas.
With that being said, keep checking in for the next article in our “How To Build A Bookworm” series, where we will look at the things we can do as parents to develop a habit of reading with our kids. Also, if you happen to have any reading questions or concerns in the meantime, feel free to share.