The importance of encouraging your child to read

By Michelle Lorber Time of article published Jan 9, 2021

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READING is one of the most centrally important skills children will require to be successful. In addition to benefiting learners academically, reading skills are a skill contributing to skills that last a lifetime. Reading will develop vocabulary, increase attention span and impart tools for stronger analytical thinking.

If you’ve spent time reading to your child, you have already helped to reinforce the basic sounds that form language.

Most of what a child absorbs from learning is done through reading, observing and listening. If a child can already read well, they will find it easier to learn what is needed from them at school.

Apart from exposing people to other realities, points of view and flights of imagination, reading is also practical, beneficial and essential for your child’s growth. Children will benefit in the following ways:

Gain improved concentration

By regularly focusing on a story and following it through, your child will learn to focus. This helps with concentration in other areas. They will consequently find it easier to follow other forms of instruction, whether it’s through media presentation or verbal instructions.

Gain improved memory

To understand and follow a story, you need to be able to remember the characters, their history, their motivation, the plot and details associated with them. The larger canvas and lessons learnt need a deep level of understanding from a reader.

Gain awareness of other cultures, geographical areas

Through reading, children learn more about the world and its countries, people and events. Initially, these are not available from personal experience, so they will encounter ideas and beliefs other than what they have experienced so far. Reading will open their mind to differences in beliefs and cultures other than their own, which helps with tolerance and understanding.

Have more mental engagement and flexibility

Anything that challenges and exercises the brain is a good thing. Reading improves brain connectivity. The more children think, the more they question, debate and learn. Reading will increase both their vocabulary and ability to understand. Strong readers will have a greater attention span.

Boost critical thinking

With deeper comprehension, analytical thinking skills are boosted. Children will learn to make predictions or speculate how the story will unfold, encouraging your brain to consider multiple scenarios.

Increasing empathy

While following a story, you invest in the characters. This brings emotion to the surface. The more your child understands how they feel and how to process their feelings, the better they will deal with themselves and other people. Imagining creates understanding.

Developing and improving language skills

In hearing other people speak or read, children build on their language and pronunciation skills. Lengthy exposure to listening to other people speak helps reinforce the sounds that make up language. Once they begin to read themselves, they will recognise more words and learn new ones. This expands their vocabulary, resulting in a more articulate child with more fluent language skills.

Encouraging imagination

Reading encourages visualisation. When you read a book, you form a mental picture of how the characters look and what happens in various interactions. Parallels are drawn in our own experiences and encounters with others. Reading stimulates the right side of the brain, which is involved with innovation, creativity and ideas, among other things.

Better school performance

Children who read tend to perform better at school. Learners who were read to before going to school are likely to be more proficient when it comes to formal education. They will also have a better understanding of grammar. Children who read voluntarily get better marks in tests and tend to have a more extensive general and content knowledge (although this doesn’t apply to comics or magazines as much).

Entertainment and encouragement

Reading should be an enjoyable experience. Children respond particularly well to fun and positive reactions and reinforcement. They react spontaneously and with excitement to what they hear and find it easier to remember details when they’ve laughed or reacted strongly to a story.

Self-confidence

Better readers will have more confidence in their abilities and more self-esteem. Poor readers may feel left out, left behind or discouraged and less inclined to participate. Reading also helps with decision-making.

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