Bringing Children to Reading

Today, reading has a fair bit of competition. Technology and gadgets abound in all households provide children with plenty of options for both education and entertainment. Not only are they more engaging, but they also require them to exert relatively lesser effort.

On the other hand, reading requires more involvement to get the same level of engagement. Persuading children to include reading as one of their regular activities can be challenging. At the same time, parents and educators are well aware of the importance of reading. Therefore, for caretakers of children at the age they develop reading skills and habits – the task of engaging them carries an added pressure.

Developing attention spans alongside literacy becomes important too due to phenomena such as the Matthew Effect. According to it, children who begin their reading journey well are likely to find it easier to get better at it over time when compared to those who begin theirs poorly.

In such situations, questions regarding how children come to reading are well worth inspecting.

Reading Outside the Book

Traditionally, the act of reading has been bound up with the book, although online activities and materials such as flashcards have become commonplace in classrooms. As research and studies throw light on new information about how we learn to read, reading curriculums and instructions put them to practical use. However, the practice of reading itself does not seem to have undergone much change. Books still provide the bulk of reading material made available to children.

While reading is important, confining reading to books may drive some children away from it. Focusing the wandering attentions of younger children onto one object that may or may not be talking about a subject that they can relate to or recognize is difficult. And the initial challenge of reading word after word whilst having to sit in one place can easily turn it into a tiresome chore.

In such cases, extricating the act of reading from books can help tremendously in promoting the habit. This can be done by encouraging children to seek it outside of their classrooms and study times. Once books are understood as a wide range of reading materials, reading matter can be found anywhere and everywhere – any kind of writing can be read: labels on everyday household products, the advert plastered across the bus stop near home, the poster on the wall of the living room, words emblazoned on T-shirts and mugs, signboards on roads, in shops and parks.

Every day or natural phenomena provide an almost bottomless well to whet the curiosity of children. They often need only to be pointed out to inquiring minds. Demonstrating simple experiments that highlight the properties of already familiar objects or substances can kindle the desire to learn more about them. For instance, dropping a cube of ice into a glass of water to show a child that it floats, and then telling them about natural instances of this phenomenon, such as glaciers, might drive them to investigate the question of why ice floats on water rather than sinking in it. Activities like these build a strong association in the child’s mind between reading and learning (as opposed to studying, a far more tedious task).

Reading becomes a method of interacting with their surroundings instead of a regimented process regulated by reading levels. Acquiring these new bits of information opens up the world to them in a new way, igniting interest while letting them experience a new kind of freedom.

Visual Reading

Some children may need visual cues to boost their imaginations and enhance the pleasure derived from reading. Though comics may sometimes be frowned upon by instructors and/or parents, they serve as an excellent medium for visual stimulation while encouraging reading. And when compared to instructional picture books, they have the element of narrative that works better to engage and hold attention. Comics allow readers to have a unique reading experience and serve as a great entry point into more text-based reading.

Another medium for highly visual reading is rebus reading. Text interspersed with images in place of or next to words makes for an eye-catching presentation while working as a puzzle that can intrigue the reader, even as it reduces the time taken to read the story or passage.

Reading Through Games

Over the last few years, phonics instruction has become integral to reading curriculums. In a way, reading through phonics is a puzzle in itself as the learner has to decode the letters and symbols to unlock the mystery of the message they carry. However, in academic contexts, this could be burdening to the child. Taking reading out of that context and adding a layer of play can transform it into a fun game instead.

Here are five activities kids could explore:

  1. To build vocabulary, popular word games such as anagrams and scrabble can serve as alternatives to enforced reading and memorization. Kids could even make up their puzzles for adults to solve.
  2. Parents and caretakers can concoct their personalized word games to suit the child and the setting they are in. For instance, asking the child to pick out objects in the room whose names begin with a particular letter.
  3. A trip to the local store presents a range of opportunities to practice reading. The child can read a label that says ‘Cheese’ and see a shelf stacked with the item that they can touch and hold, rather than stare at a picture in a book. Kids could have fun spotting shorter words in longer ones as they walk down an aisle. Spotting the ‘ape’ in ‘grapes’ can bring on a bout of intense laughter too!
  4. Reading the name of their neighborhood on a signboard can give kids a sense of where they are. Alternatively reading signs in front of a store, boards, menus, magazine names, signage on vehicles, book titles at the library – anything that catches a child’s eye can get them interested in reading.
  5. Word games could also be made physical by fusing them with sidewalk chalk games. The colored circles in Twister could be letters instead, letting players spell out words with their hands and feet. Alphabets could replace the Xs and Os of tic-tac-toe, with the winner being the first person who manages to spell a three-letter word.

Reading can have several definitions – it does not have to be enclosed and defined by frameworks of reading levels and scales. Introducing reading flexible to the needs and interests of the individual child can make it a pleasurable activity.

The primary goal is to get kids interested in reading – the job of parents, caretakers, and educators is to facilitate them and be open to the variety of paths that they might take.

Author bio: Sophia is an online ESL/EFL instructor and a passionate educator. She found her true calling — teaching — while she was juggling writing and a 9-5 desk job. When she is not busy earning a living, she volunteers as a social worker. Her active online presence demonstrates her strong belief in the power of networking. If you want to connect, you can find her on Facebook, Twitter, Medium, and her blog Essay Writing and More.


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