As technological innovations grow and expand into so many facets of our lives, it often seems that students are reading books less and less. Parents can easily hand their child a tablet with a game or some other app to keep them occupied, whether at the store, waiting for a doctor appointment, or at home. Although it can be beneficial for so many reasons, technology is only one aspect of learning - reading books is another, and something for which newer generations of students may find themselves struggling to find a passion.
Across studies and reports, rates of reading and numbers of young readers are falling. On the other hand, use of digital entertainment like television, social networking, and gaming applications is continuously rising. In a 2014 survey, children reported a mild enjoyment of reading, “but it’s not at the top of things [they] like to do.” Tablets, consoles, and smartphones all offer a plethora of options at the tip of a finger.
However, it doesn’t have to be that way. Reading can be simulating and social. The enthusiasm that millennials have for series such as Harry Potter attests to the fact that reading can be an unforgettably joyous and affecting experience. Across generations and age groups, family members recall with nostalgia reading classic books like To Kill a Mockingbird and A Tree Grows in Brooklyn for the very first time.
Beyond providing pleasant remembrances or a basis for common ground, statistics show that reading is critical for a child’s future success. Concordia University-Portland reported that, “students who aren’t interested in reading have a hard time achieving good grades.” Parents who support their children’s reading habits in their home learning environment, along with the support and collaboration of their teachers and school programs, have a profound effect on their future academic success:
“Early childhood programs that provide a linguistically rich learning environment with explicit focus on developing emergent literacy, where cognitively challenging talk is encouraged… appear to be most effective in supporting language and literacy development and providing critical foundational skills for school success.”
Clearly, cultivating a passion for reading directly correlates with academic success in the classroom. But what if your child just doesn’t have any interest in reading? Can you, as a parent, change this?
Yes! There are multiple methods one can use to instill an organic appreciation for reading within a child. Here are just a few ideas from SchoolFamily.com and Concordia University-Portland:
- Read aloud to them every night.
- Help them discover their interests and find books about those interests.
- Remove (temporarily) distractions like televisions, phones, and iPads.
- Set an example: let them see you reading around the house.
- Talk about the material with them.
- Put on a play or show in which children dress up and reenact the events of a book.
- Have your child write their own story, or write a different ending to a story they’ve read.
Additionally, University of Nebraska Educational Psychology Professor Susan M. Sheridan notes that “children who are given opportunities to converse and have a rich language discourse across their natural environment are then primed to pick up on the tasks necessary to learn to read.” Making an effort to discuss a book with your child(ren) can go a long way. Not only will they get the chance to talk about their favorite parts of a book, but they will also be developing their ability to think critically and engage with text – skills vital for excelling in academics later in life.
Reading thoughtfully and engaging with written material are undeniably important skills in the modern world. The ability to read, and more importantly, to read actively and often, allows one to develop analytical skills, the capacity to empathize, imagination, intelligence, and a lifelong love of learning. Fostering this love of learning at a young age accelerates the academic process for a child and ultimately serves to give them a leg up in an increasingly competitive world.