Nurturing A Love Of Reading

Nurturing A Love Of Reading

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For children today, reading books for pleasure has a lot of competition from many other pursuits that require less engagement and provide an instant excitement return. Television doesn’t require children to visualise scenarios or use their imagination as much and video games have all the bells and whistles to be immediately absorbing. But books continue to form the cornerstone of childhood education and development, says Julie Wells, president of the Children’s Book Council of Australia (CBCA) and there is a large body of research to back this up.

“Nothing can fire up a child’s vivid imagination more than reading a book, or having one read to them, because it is their imagination that is creating the images from the words they’re reading,” she says.

“The academic and social benefits that come with enjoying reading have also been well documented. But for children it is the absolute joy they can find in reading that is so important.”

Quantity or Quality?

Educators, authors and government types have all enjoyed putting a figure on how many books children should be reading, or how many a parent should be reading with them each day. In Australia, figures suggest parents should read five books a day to their children or at least for 10 minutes a day.

Well-known children’s author Mem Fox wrote in her book, Reading Magic: Why Reading Aloud To Our Children Will Change Their Lives Forever, that children need to hear 1000 stories read aloud before they learn to read themselves.

“That sounds daunting. But when we do the sums, it isn’t as bad as we might think,” she writes. “Three stories a day will deliver us a thousand stories in one year alone, let alone in the four or five years prior to school.”

“Reading aloud and talking about what we’re reading sharpens children’s brains. It helps develop their ability to concentrate at length, to solve problems logically and to express themselves more easily and clearly.”

The benefits of reading have been shown over and over again in research. A German review of 146 international studies and 10,000 students found that avid readers score higher not only on language and reading skills but also on success at school and intelligence.

Great Ideas For Parents

  • Set aside a regular reading time at home. “This is a great habit to get into,” Wells says. “Turn off the screens and encourage your kids to read – or read to them. Kids will soon love the chance to escape into their favourite books.”
  • Join your local library and visit as regularly as possible. This way children and parents can peruse and devour a vast number of books, without the financial demand, while also having the chance to sample different genres and authors.
  • Get an idea of good books from school librarians and staff at local bookshops.
  • Talk about books with your children. “Many children know what they like reading and at a young age know what authors they enjoy,” Wells says. “Otherwise, talk to them about their interests and find books that match.”
  • Model good reading habits. Wells says research has shown that children who come from homes where reading material is easily accessible and whose parents read often are more likely to read for pleasure. “Maybe you’re just reading a paper or your favourite magazine, but let your children see you read.”

Mrs Sue Zweck, Head of Teaching and Learning K-5