The latest Scholastic Kids & Family Reading Report was released a few weeks back. Although the study is based on school age children, it also serves as an important reference for parents of pre-school aged children. After all, it is these early childhood years that lay the foundation for success in reading and literacy in the school years.
It is packed with statistics which point to this importance of allowing children a degree of autonomy when planning their reading routines. Here’s what Scholastic said on the topic of children selecting their own reading materials:
“Ninety-one percent of children ages 6–17 say, ‘My favorite books are the ones that I have picked out myself.'”
Educator Lois Bridges analysed the data, and here are her thoughts, which were published in the Washington Post:
“Independent reading, both at school and at home, builds successful readers. What’s more, the research shows that giving our students a say in what they read is key. And from our experience, we also know frequent reading leads to becoming a proficient reader, which helps a child thrive personally and academically. … Classroom-based independent-reading programs that invite reading choice and promote reading pleasure give rise to kids who not only read, but, more importantly, who want to read.”
How to teach kids to read in the early years
The survey also notes that being read to as a young child by a parent is a major determining factor in whether you grow up to become a frequent reader.
The Read Before School program is based on a philosophy that reading, in the younger years, is best taught through play based learning. For kids to fall in love with reading, they need to be given the freedom to select books that match their interest. When teaching toddlers to read, this may mean reading 20 books about fairies, or every book in the library about diggers.
But what about extending vocabulary?
This is a very valid question. Repetition is certainly a key part of learning, and if your child keeps coming across a word or phrase while reading, it will eventually be etched in his or her memory. This is often referred to as ‘narrow reading’. But at what point do you actively encourage your child to try other topics rather than just diggers? Is it after book number 10, book number 50 or book number 100? In all likelihood your child will take interest in other subjects as their fixation subsides or moves on to something else. In the meantime, why not capitalise on this intense interest, and seek out books on the topics which include language which is just a little higher than their current level. If you are lucky enough to find a topic which interests your little one in books, capitalise on it as much as possible to encourage your child to move from learning to read to reading to learn. And all the while, continue to introduce books on other topics as a side interest. Try setting an expectation such as “for every 2 books we read about diggers we read one book about something else!”
Learning how to read should be fun
And remember, the key to children developing a love for reading is making the experience fun. Your little angel will not be reading books about fairies when they are 20, so just let your child enjoy the magical topic while they are still young!
The Scholastic survey found that 75 percent of kids deemed to be infrequent readers (those who read for fun less than one day per week) say they haven’t read a book for fun in a while. Could these children could become avid readers if they could select the books of their choice?
Read more about the research and findings at Scholastic.