Evidence suggests that frequent readers perform better on academic tests. Regardless of the subject, students who are said to be “frequent readers” outperform those who “do not read for enjoyment” in international cognitive testing (according to the PISA Report 2009). Astoundingly, these statistics demonstrated that the academic difference between the two groups was the equivalent of as much as 2 years of schooling.
While it may seem like a straight forward idea, making children read can be a difficult task. At parent-teacher interviews I am regularly asked, “How can I make my child read more?” or the even more pertinent, “How can I make my son read more?”
Here are a few ideas associated with positive reading experiences which might help…
- Parents’ Attitude
Like it or not, children inherit many attitudes from parents, and this is no different with reading.
Simply seeing a parent reading speaks volumes about the value of reading in your household. Having a shared reading time allows children the time and space to focus on their reading, but also the opportunity to have positive conversations with parents about their books, the issues the characters face, the setting or what the book says about their own life. Indeed, many parents who read their children’s school novels have been able to engage in a new avenue of conversation with their child, and speak into the themes and values of the novel being discussed in the classroom.
Also, autonomy in reading increases the likelihood of a positive reading experience. Put simply, if children pick their own books, they tend to read them.
Reading comfortable books, rather than those which might stretch them. Many people get pleasure from reading more complex books, though they do this after developing a positive attitude to simpler books. While student choice is a common feature in primary school, more complex books are required at high school which can put students off reading.
3. Start simple
While children might gravitate towards magazines, comics, picture books which we might not hold in high literary regard, they are actually forming positive associations with reading. In doing this, they are better equipped to face more difficult reading tasks and have a positive, more resilient attitude to reading more academic texts. Reading for pleasure is crucial to a positive association with reading in general.
Developing a reading culture at home may seem daunting at first, though with time, a habit will form and children will become contented, even excited, about what they are reading.
As one expert has observed: “Students who read independently become better readers, score higher on achievement tests in all subject areas, and have greater content knowledge than those who do not.” (Cullinan, 2000).
Some strategies to help your child read more:
- Allow your child to choose reading material they like (novels, picture books, newspapers, comics, graphic novels, magazines, video game e-zines, etc…)
- Read where you child will see – Let your child see your own enjoyment of, and need for, reading
- Set aside a 20 minute timeslot each night to read – either individually or together in the same space
- Read a book together – express what it means to you, what you liked, didn’t like, etc…
- Talk about what you have read recently and why you read it
- Read your child’s school texts – this opens up wonderful avenues for conversation, and allows you to help them when they struggle (yes, this applies to textbooks too)
Students who are able to enjoy and engage in reading are setting themselves up for future academic success. Whether they’re reading about Pokemon or politics, what matters is that they’re reading and enjoying it.
Cullinan, B. E. (2000). Independent reading and school achievement. School Library Media Research, 3, 1-23. Retrieved from http://www.ala.org/aasl/pubs/slr
OECD (2010), PISA 2009 Results: A Teacher’s Guide to PISA Reading Literacy