31 May, 2024

Cultivating a love for reading beyond the classroom

Cultivating a love for reading beyond the classroom - Cultivating a love for reading beyond the classroom
The article emphasizes the importance of encouraging children to read outside the classroom to improve their English skills. It argues that independent reading of diverse and challenging texts enhances vocabulary, grammar, writing, and overall literacy, leading to better academic performance.
“How can my child improve in English?” This is the question I hear often from anxious parents during PTCs and my answer is always the same: “Read”. This may sound simplistic but, in truth, it is the best answer an English teacher can give.

It is not enough for students to only read class books, they must actively read everyday, a text they have chosen by themselves which challenges them either in its vocabulary, genre or theme choices. Easier said than done, however. A recent poll from a KS4 year group saw only 2 students out of 8 actively read their own books at home regularly and when questioned further, they were books from genres they read constantly and admitted it did not challenge them. This is unfortunate as according to The Reading Agency, children who read more than once a week by the age of 16 are more likely to gain higher results in Maths, vocabulary and spelling tests. 

I am all for comfort reading. I regularly read Agatha Christie and I would encourage everyone to do the same but I know it is not particularly difficult to read. However, I am also not going to sit any English exams anytime soon. 

The benefits to reading are:

Improves your vocabulary
Enhances grammar and punctuation
Improves writing skills
Improves literacy skills

This in turn helps students gain the higher marks in both Literature and Language and it becomes evident when a student is not well read as they struggle to understand explicit meaning let alone implicit meaning. A student should be reading for at least 10 minutes a day and it does not always have to be fiction. Reading non-fiction books and articles are vitally important in terms of improving literacy, but it is also a way for parents and children to read together. For example, a child picks a newspaper article and you both read it. A discussion then takes place about what the explicit meaning is and what is perhaps the implicit meaning. Do they agree or disagree with the writer and why? How does the writer convey bias, etc? This can all be completed in 10 minutes yet done on a regular basis, it helps improve your child’s literacy skills exponentially. Furthermore, a student should be writing down new vocabulary while reading fiction and non-fiction, looking up their definitions and using them in a sentence which parents can help by testing them. Conversations can also be had about characterisation, structure, etc even if you haven’t read the book yourself. Getting your child to explain the book helps them iron out misconceptions and clarify their own understanding. 

Additionally, despite the obvious benefits reading outside of the classroom can bring to your child’s academic success, reading is a pleasurable pastime which should be encouraged as it brings about huge mental health benefits. The British Association of Counsellors and Psychiatrists found in a 2009 study that reading for 30 minutes lowered blood pressure, heart rate and feelings of psychological distress. This is a perfect way for students to wind down before bed, especially during peak exam season. 

The benefits of reading are exponential. As an English teacher, I would recommend the next time you’re in a position to buy books, take your child with you to the bookshop and help them pick out a few texts. I can always recommend an age-appropriate reading list if you are stuck but sometimes going to the bookshop, looking around and having conversations is the best way to help your child academically and further their enthusiasm so that they become life-long readers.