We live in a society where being literate is crucial. Rather than diminishing the need to be literate, technological advances (at least in the short term) make literacy even more important. Where once we used to pick up a phone and call, now we are just as likely, if not more likely, to send an email or a text. Reading is also the basis for a lot of learning. Yes, there are programs that will change text into speech, but a competent reader can read so much quicker than the spoken language.
For most children, reading is not a skill acquired naturally through a process of osmosis. However, to become a competent reader, children need to practise reading, and, like any skill, you are more likely to practise reading if you enjoy reading. According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics (2012), one in ten 10 to 11 year old children do not enjoy reading and don’t read for leisure on a daily basis. The key factors found to influence children’s enjoyment of reading were being read to when aged 4 to 5 years and having a large number of books in the home (more than 30). Reading for leisure will not teach a child how to read, but it does provide an opportunity to practise reading.
How can we help develop a love of reading for leisure?
- Beginning from when our children are born we need to surround them with books and read to them every day.
- We, as parents, need to be seen by our children reading – not just the newspaper or magazines, but books.
- We need to share and discuss the books we are reading and the books our children are reading. This includes giving our children permission to identify particular books as boring.
- We need to regularly visit the local community library and help our children find books on their current areas of interest and passion.
- We need to expose our children to a range of different books – fiction and nonfiction, prose and poetry, adventure, mystery, and biography, books about school and friendship, animals and sports, world’s far away and our own local community, picture books, books in other languages, audio and electronic books, and classics and newly released books.
- We need to have available books that are at, above and below our children’s current reading level. The books that are outside our children’s current reading level, we can read to them. These books expose our children to new vocabulary, ideas and concepts. The ones below make it easier for our children to dive in and enjoy the books without the pressure of focusing on the decoding process.
- We need to give our children, our nieces, nephews, grandchildren and friends books for birthdays, Christmas and at other times of celebration.
This shared passion and celebration of books and reading won’t teach our children to read, but it will go a long way towards engendering a love of reading and the selection of reading as an enjoyable leisure activity.
Australian Bureau of Statistics (2012) http://www.abs.gov.au/ausstats/abs@.nsf/Lookup/by%20Subject/1301.0~2012~Main%20Features~Reading:%20the%20home%20and%20family%20context~205