By Oliver Snowball, Headmaster of Eaton House The Manor Girls’ School
Children’s reading ability is a vital part of their education. We want children to have a lifelong love of learning, and so it is vital to equip them at an early age with the skills required and reading at home is a key factor in their development.
Table of contents:
- Children’s reading ability can be divided into types
- The importance of reading at home
- Reading at home reading should be supervised
- Help broaden vocabulary by reading at home
- Reading helps develop self-knowledge
- The importance of non-fiction
- Children’s reading at home: tips for parents
- Further information
Children’s reading ability can be divided into types
One of the most fundamental skills is undoubtedly the ability to read. Subdividing children’s reading into different forms can be helpful. There is the art of reading aloud with confidence and expression. Then there is the art of reading in detail to absorb as much information as possible. Finally, the art of skim-reading to identify a text’s key points is important, especially for exam preparation.
The importance of reading at home
Children’s reading time should be an ‘anytime’ activity. To limit the development and practising of these skills to school is almost to suggest to a child that reading is primarily an experience to be enjoyed by the teacher and pupil. Reading will be of great value to our children in their future workplaces, but it is first and foremost a life skill. In short, reading will enable our children to access the world.
Reading at home should be supervised
At a recent event I hosted for some of my prospective parents, I encouraged them to view the time they spent reading at home with their daughters as a hugely powerful gesture of love. Even though they may not vocalise it, I do not doubt that the girls in my school know how busy their parents are. Juggling professional roles with domestic duties is a challenging and energy-sapping business. This can leave most parents feeling utterly exhausted by the end of each day. As a result, the supper, bath and bed routine can often be less than joyous for all concerned.
For a parent to press the pause button and take the time to share in fifteen minutes of reading is a most precious gift. It can significantly impact a child’s learning and the development of their relationship with their mother/father if done regularly.
Help broaden vocabulary by reading at home
A child’s vocabulary can be broadened by reading at home on a more academic level, and their understanding of grammar, syntax, and idiom extended. It is also likely that their historical periods, geographical settings and political issues will be developed.
Exploring new worlds
Reading takes us everywhere, from the real to the fantastical. All genres have their value in stretching a young person’s mind. When narratives are discussed, children quickly start to think, inquire, and express their own opinions. Crucially, through the use of some relatively simple questions, parents can encourage their children to analyse a character’s feelings. They can do this by exploring their words and actions. In turn, this can lead to the development of one of the most important traits, in my view: empathy.
Reading helps develop self-knowledge
Children’s reading helps them learn more about themselves. Whether a child is journeying through the fictitious context of a novel or building an understanding of a given topic from an article, essay or website, they constantly refine their sense of identity.
The importance of non-fiction
When a child reads at home, they discover how they respond to many issues, free from any judgements. I deliberately refer to non-fiction here as there can sometimes be the tendency for parents to focus solely on fiction with their children. As with food, my advice would always be to pursue a broad and balanced diet of literature.
Children often love latching onto topics such as dinosaurs, space or nature at an early age. Any good reference books which feed this interest will only serve to reward such curiosity. Once a child feels that curiosity is something special and valued by the people they love the most, they will be more inclined to repeat that experience.
Reading at home tips for parents
For those parents whose daughters are still in the early days of learning to read, I have three brief but important top tips.
- Try to focus on your child’s progress rather than comparing them to any of their peers. If you have any concerns, do approach your child’s teacher to ask for guidance. Resist the urge to enter into a Reading Scheme race with others in the class
- Listening to a child learning to read can often require the patience of a saint, but I can assure you it is worth it in the end. The pleasure derived from having a book read independently to you by your child is truly magical. Even when you are itching to step in and finish the book off, try and allow your child to do the work themselves.
- Wordless books and audiobooks can be tremendously empowering as well as entertaining. The former encourages children to become the creators of stories. The latter enables them to enjoy their favourite books even when an adult cannot read it themselves.
- Most importantly, the act of reading at home should certainly not stop once a child has become a free reader. Encouraging children to build positive reading habits into their daily routine may well support their well-being as much as their intellectual growth.
However, this does not mean it always needs to be quiet reading. In my opinion, the longer parents can read to their children and, indeed, listen to their children reading to them, the better.
If this shared experience can be sustained until the child is aged ten or even older, not only will some great texts have been encountered together, but I suspect a genuine, and hopefully lifelong, interest in the written word.
Eaton House Schools - if you are interested in finding out more about our schools for your child, please contact Miss Sam Feilding, Head of Admissions, on 0203 917 5050 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org if you have a general enquiry, please contact us at email@example.com.