A child’s ability to read not only benefits them in school but throughout all aspects of life. At school, eventually at work, during play, and even in everyday tasks like shopping or catching a bus; reading plays an important role.
Learning to read is a necessary part of growing up but it shouldn’t only be viewed in an academic sense. Enjoying reading has lots of benefits so it is important to not only teach a child to read but to teach them to enjoy it too.
How many children are reading with adults?
Statistics show that between the ages of 0 and 2, 45% of children are read to most days. Between the ages of 3 and 4 this increases in an effort to prepare children for school but drops back down between the ages of 5 and 7.
This is because for many parents, reading is viewed simply as a subject at school, rather than as a fun activity for a child to engage with. Less than half of children between the ages of 8 and 18 claim that they enjoy reading with this number being even less for lower income families.
This unfortunately means that for many children reading becomes a chore, something they have to do instead of something that they want to do. These children miss out on the many benefits of reading for enjoyment.
Educational benefits to reading for fun
Reading outside of a school environment has benefits which transfer over into a child’s academic life. Children who read for fun tend to get better results across a wide range of subjects at school not just the obvious subject Literacy and English.
In younger children especially, reading can aid in the development of language skills. Children are exposed to new words which they see used in the correct context in books, this helps the child to really understand what a work means and how it can be used. This pattern continues when older children and even adults read for pleasure, as the level of reading develops so do the new words we learn.
Reading stories helps to fuel a child’s imagination by opening them up to endless possibilities in the books that they read. This will benefit the child’s literacy skills while also encouraging personal creativity which can be used across subjects at school and in personal life.
Emotional benefits to reading for fun
Reading is proven to have a positive impact on the mental health of children for a variety of reasons. Fiction and non-fiction books teach children about the world around them, what they learn in stories makes them better equipped to face challenges in their own life.
This gained knowledge is a tool for children to face life bravely, with stories and characters as inspiration children feel that they can take on the world. Utilising this inspiration can reduce anxiety in day-to-day life for many children.
Reading helps to develop a child’s imagination; this can be used in imaginative play as a creative outlet. Imaginative play with other children also helps in the development of friendships. Imaginative play allows a child to safely explore their understandings of the world as they recreate the things they see in books and in real life
Reading to a child or helping them to read to you benefits the parent child relationship, reading creates one on one connection with a child as you spend specific time and attention with them. Reading with a child also aids in relaxation as a calm time for many at the end of the day before bedtime. This routine is also beneficial to the child.
For both adults and children, reading can be a form of escapism. This means that reading stories provides a break from real life and its stresses. If a child is struggling at school or with any aspect of life, reading may provide them an escape from reality and an easy way to seek comfort. If a book offers advice or simply a distraction, reading offers positive emotional benefits to a child who has a lot on their mind.
How to teach a child to enjoy reading
In order to gain the full benefits of reading a child needs to be engaged with reading and enjoy it. (Mindful attention activities to support shared book reading – Susan Hendler Lederer).
This allows the child to fully take in what they read and as a result gain the most they possibly can from the experience. When reading to or with a child there are lots of things that an adult can do in order to make the experience more engaging.
To make reading together fun for a child the adult should also enjoy the experience, this can include making up actions alongside the book and making up voices for characters. Reading aloud makes the child feel more engaged and involved with the story.
Another way to keep the child engaged is to talk to them about what is happening in the book. Asking if they can guess what happens next encourages them to use their imagination as well as pattern recognition keeping them interested in the book. Asking the child to tell you about what happened in the story after you finish reading is also a good way to see if the child is fully engaging in the book.
When reading with a child discussing any new vocabulary is an excellent way to encourage engagement while also encouraging academic improvements in the child’s language and literacy skills.
Reading should be relaxing, as an escape from reality and often a part of a bedtime routine. The space used for reading should reflect this. A reading space could be in bed or any other cosy space where you read with a child so that they get the most from the experience.
Reading for fun should be entirely separate to school work, children can choose what they enjoy reading and seek out other books that they will also enjoy. When adults show genuine interest in what a child wants to read, they learn that reading is something that they can control for themselves.
This begins a positive relationship with reading.
What can charities do to support reading?
Children’s charities aim to encourage and support reading with children. The disruption of education during the pandemic has had a negative effect on reading, especially among children from lower income families.
This is why it is so important to provide free reading material for children and young people to enjoy. One way that this is done is through free short children’s stories. This is a collection of free short stories for children.
They have all been written by talented and generous volunteer writers. The stories are perfect bedtime reads or casual afternoon reading that won’t be found elsewhere.
Children are greatly impacted by the stories that they read and so the collection is full of positive messages for children to absorb.