How does your child fare with reading? It’s one of the first skills taught at school and has far-reaching consequences throughout your child’s life.
In simple terms, literacy is the ability to read and write as well as understand and analyze the written word. Susan du Plessis, Director of Educational Programs at Edublox Reading and Learning Clinic, says that the implications of a child struggling to read is a serious one — a poor reader is inevitably a poor learner.
According to the National Assessment of Adult Literacy (completed most recently in 2003, and before that, in 1992), 14 percent of adult Americans demonstrated a “below basic” literacy level in 2003, and 29 percent exhibited a “basic” reading level.
Jan Richards, manager of Central West Libraries, a network taking in the Orange, Blayney, Cabonne, Cowra and Forbes council areas says the whole of Australia, has “huge literacy issues”.
“Forty-seven percent of the Australian population are functionally illiterate,” Ms. Richards says. “That means they can’t read the instructions on a medicine bottle, they can’t read a map, they can’t read a recipe.”
The PIRLS study conducted in 2006 compared the reading abilities of children in 40 countries. South African readers were placed last. Of the Grade 4 learners tested, only 13 percent reached the lowest benchmark, compared with 94 percent internationally.
Stats like this are cause for concern. The benefits of healthy reading stretch far beyond the classroom. So why is reading such a crucial skill in a modern age?
Reading builds vocabulary
Reading will help your child learn new words and build his vocabulary. Children also learn better language skills as they read — from sentence structure and good grammar, to new words not encountered in the child’s immediate surroundings. Reading also helps children to learn how stories are structured and the more kids read, the better writers they become. Many subjects, especially in high school, require written essays where good writers can obtain better marks.
Reading improves concentration and aids relaxation
Taking time out to read can help your child learn to concentrate better and focus on one task. Modern kids are so bombarded with sound, light and movement from electronic gadgets, that reading is actually relaxing for the brain.
Readers are better spellers
SMS language or ‘text talk’ — where 8 is ate and y is why — is contributing to a generation of poor spellers. Reading and spelling form a two-way street — each aids the other. In the higher grades, marks are deducted for spelling errors, so better spelling means better marks. In business, poor spelling is unprofessional… and before you hit spell check, remember, it’s never completely accurate!
Reading can be a social activity
Parents and caregivers can make reading to a younger child a special daily bonding time. Book clubs or library story time bring children from all walks of life together. They learn listening skills and then have an opportunity to articulate what they have heard and give their own opinions on the story with their peers.
Words are building blocks — even in technology
Many people believed that the birth of the Internet spelt the death of the written word, but the reality is that words and reading have become an even bigger part of our lives. Words are building blocks that are required in all walks of life — from writing a letter to a friend, to a slide presentation viewed by hundreds of people at a business conference. Being able to read and write is essential for communication in our technological age — just think of the number of e-mails sent around the world every day.
Digital devices have an important role to play in our children’s lives but parents should also encourage kids to read print books. Digital does have some advantages over print (it’s interactive and helps to develop hand-eye co-ordination), but holding a book and turning pages is a tactile experience for children. They also tend to concentrate more on reading the actual words and understanding the story than anticipating what clicking on the next icon will bring.
Reading is key in education and enrichment
While reading is crucial for learning and achieving throughout the school career and into university, reading can also enrich a child’s life outside of the classroom. Avid readers often have an excellent general knowledge. Reading is a brain exercise — the more you do it the better you get!