Reading is an essential life skill that every child needs to learn in order to thrive in the world. You need to know how to read menus and instructions, directions and terms, recipes and rules. It seems like a no-brainer. However, studies show that many children worldwide are not reading at the level they should be. Approximately 67% of grade 4 studies in the United States are unable to read at a proficient level1What percent of 4th grade students are reading below proficiency level?. Retrieved 17 December 2021, from https://www.winginstitute.org/what-percent-of-4th; 45% of Canadians are semi-illiterate2Nearly half of adult Canadians struggle with literacy — and that’s bad for the economy | CBC Radio. (2021). Retrieved 17 December 2021, from https://www.cbc.ca/radio/costofliving/let-s-get-digital-from-bitcoin-to-stocktok-plus-what-low-literacy-means-for-canada-s-economy-1.5873703/nearly-half-of-adult-canadians-struggle-with-literacy-and-that-s-bad-for-the-economy-1.5873757; almost 50% of UK children leave school before getting a basic level of functional English3Pells, R. (2016). Almost half of children leave primary school unable to read and write properly, performance tables reveal. Retrieved 17 December 2021, from https://www.independent.co.uk/news/education/education-news/half-of-children-primary-school-unable-read-and-write-performance-tables-education-literacy-numeracy-a7477386.html, and 29% of grade 5 students in Australia do not meet the benchmark literacy skills4Literacy Standards in Australia. (1997). Retrieved 17 December 2021, from http://research.acer.edu.au/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1005&context=monitoring_learning. But it isn’t the children’s fault. The problem with these heartbreaking statistics could very well result from how reading is taught in schools. It’s been the same for many centuries, despite everything else in the curriculum adapting to newer, better techniques as they’re discovered. However, that doesn’t mean that all children are doomed, nor does it mean that the children lacking in reading skills will continue to do so.
Reading is an Essential Life Skill Every Child Deserves
As adults, we often forget that reading is a learned skill. We do it every day, all day, without thinking twice about it. But reading doesn’t come naturally. We aren’t born knowing how to decipher the many words of the English language, and without developing reading skills, letters just look like unknown symbols on a page.
But have you ever wondered why reading is so important? Well, there are many reasons. From being a necessary life skill that sets a child up for success to creating the building blocks for their education moving forward, reading is a must and here’s why:
Reading Is a Basic Building Block
Don’t get confused by the word ‘basic’ because learning how to read is anything but. It’s an essential building block for learning that will serve children in all aspects of their schooling, regardless of the subject. It could be language arts or math, history or geography; every child needs to first learn how to read to excel in these other areas.
It’s also a necessary life skill that is used daily to complete essential tasks, such as reading a menu or following a recipe, reading street signs or understanding a prescription.
Reading Improves Concentration
Reading is one of those skills that requires focus. Surely, we can all relate to reading a paragraph, only to have to go back and re-read it because we weren’t focusing and retaining the words we were reading. As such, learning how to read improves concentration; it teaches children how to narrow their focus on a specific task. It also helps children develop the ability to sit quietly on their own, which is great for independence too!
Reading Improves Vocabulary and Language Skills
It’s no secret that the more a child reads, the more words they learn. This translates into a greater vocabulary and set of language skills for the child, as they can absorb new words with every sentence they read. And the more words they know, the better their vocabulary and language skills become.
Additionally, reading helps children learn and understand sentence structure, an essential building block for developing writing skills.
Reading Enhances Analytical and Problem-Solving Skills
One of the many benefits of reading that often goes overlooked is its ability to teach children important analytic and problem-solving skills. For example, in most storylines for children, there is a problem or issue that needs to be resolved. When a child learns how to read these stories, they can identify and sort through important details that allow them to determine or predict a possible outcome or solution. This can drastically improve their analytical skills while also teaching them new, important problem-solving techniques.
Reading Fosters Self-Confidence
Children who read regularly are able to develop strong literacy skills that allow them to become strong, competent and confident readers. This leads to a great sense of self-sufficiency and independence, which translates into a more confident child.
Different Ways to Teach a Child How to Read
Traditionally, children are taught how to read using sight words. It’s a technique that has been used for many years and certainly works for some children. However, many educators have found that sight words aren’t always the best or the most efficient way to teach children how to read, as it’s a technique that focuses on memorization instead of actual reading and understanding the sounds, letters and words of the English language. Fortunately, many alternative strategies can be used to help children improve their literacy skills and learn how to love reading.
Here are some fun, kid-friendly recommendations and tips for teaching children how to read:
- Use songs or nursery rhymes to build phonetic awareness: this technique allows the children to hear and develop the different sounds and syllables in words
- Read to your child: Although you’re doing the reading, this can help your child match the words you’re speaking with the words they see in the book. Try to get in the habit of following the words in the book with your finger as you read them, so your child can follow along and learn too.
- Play more word games. Turn off the Roblox and download some word-friendly games on your child’s tablet. These educational games make reading fun and keep children engaged as they “play” the game. This tip can also be applied to all types of games – from apps to board games and everything in between.
- Keep magnets on the fridge: this simple recommendation will present many opportunities for your child to play and work with their letters in a way that keeps them engaged.
- Focus on word sounds, instead of word shapes: ‘cat’ and ‘cut’ have the same word shape but sound entirely different, so focusing on the sounds instead of memorizing shapes can make learning how to read significantly easier for children.
- Add reading into your daily life. There are so many fun ways reading can be added into your child’s daily life, and in a way that doesn’t make them feel like their constantly doing work (Remember, you want to keep reading fun!). So, the next time you’re out on a walk and see a sign, ask your child “what sound that letters make” or what words rhyme with the sign you’re reading. At a toy shop? What rhymes with toy? Reading a street sign? What letter does it start with?
- Create reading cards: a fun activity that also engages their creativity.
- Use an online reading program: there are several incredible award-winning programs that use modernized techniques that teach children how to read.
Every child deserves to know how to read confidently. It’s an essential life skill that also serves as a foundational building block that will benefit them throughout their educational career and well into their adulthood. And the earlier you can develop those skills, the better. So, take some time to see what strategies work best for your child and stick with that. And of course, don’t forget to keep reading fun!
- 1What percent of 4th grade students are reading below proficiency level?. Retrieved 17 December 2021, from https://www.winginstitute.org/what-percent-of-4th
- 2Nearly half of adult Canadians struggle with literacy — and that’s bad for the economy | CBC Radio. (2021). Retrieved 17 December 2021, from https://www.cbc.ca/radio/costofliving/let-s-get-digital-from-bitcoin-to-stocktok-plus-what-low-literacy-means-for-canada-s-economy-1.5873703/nearly-half-of-adult-canadians-struggle-with-literacy-and-that-s-bad-for-the-economy-1.5873757
- 3Pells, R. (2016). Almost half of children leave primary school unable to read and write properly, performance tables reveal. Retrieved 17 December 2021, from https://www.independent.co.uk/news/education/education-news/half-of-children-primary-school-unable-read-and-write-performance-tables-education-literacy-numeracy-a7477386.html
- 4Literacy Standards in Australia. (1997). Retrieved 17 December 2021, from http://research.acer.edu.au/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1005&context=monitoring_learning