Developing a Love of Literature

All parents want their children to be confident, accomplished readers.

As educators we share your wish.

An interest in reading is a strong indicator of a young student’s later academic success. It is therefore encouraging to see them actively looking for books by their favourite authors and keen to finish a series that has captured their imagination.

To help your child succeed I would encourage you to consider the following:

1. Try to avoid comparing children to their siblings.

Parents often raise the concern with me that their younger child is not as advanced as an older sibling was at the same age. Children develop at different rates. Some will build skills slowly and consistently while others will make sporadic jumps at different times. Give children time to develop at their own rate.

2. Try to avoid comparing your child to that of a friend.

Building on from the previous point, children are individuals. Learning is not a competitive sport. Unfair comparisons won’t improve your child’s reading skills and abilities. What will build their skills is making a time to read each day, reading with them and having a supply of interesting books.

3. Involve your child in selecting books.

Do you like wearing clothes someone else has chosen for you? What about a cologne that may be wonderful on someone else but you can’t stand? Well, books can be personal as well. Books that do not capture a child’s imagination only lead to negative attitudes towards reading. As a parent you do need to ensure that their reading material is of high quality, however you should consider their choices as well. A book that remains unopened on their bedside table or becomes the cause of arguments, is a waste of everyone’s energy.

4. ‘The Classics’ never go out of style.

The Secret Seven and the Famous Five are still fascinating Year 4 to 6 students in 2021. Classic children’s literature will normally contain valuable ethical and moral examples of behaviour whilst telling an exciting story.

Also, the great adult classics such as ‘Frankenstein’, ‘Moby Dick’ and ‘Robinson Crusoe’ can now be found in versions especially written for a younger audience. I would encourage you to consider enrolling your child in our Reading Club where they will receive classic novels each term as part of the course fee.

5. Build reading into everyday life.

Every adult I know is time poor. What is more disturbing is this issue is now affecting our children. If you are finding your child doesn’t have enough time to read make the car trip to and from school a ‘reading only’ time. Ban the use of mobile devices and let your child read silently. Towards the end of the journey ask a couple of questions to see what they were reading. Questions such as “What is currently happening in the story?” or “Who is the main character?” or “How would you describe the main character?” or “What do you think is going to happen next in the story?”

6. ‘Check in’ on comprehension.

There can be a big difference between the words a child can read out aloud and what they actually understand. If children are reading books that are above their level of maturity and skill it is possible they may be able to say the words but not truly understand the characters, themes and plot of the novel.  To see if the novel is suitable, ask some questions about the characters and events. If your child has trouble answering your questions then it is likely the novel is currently too challenging for them. You can save it for next year.

7. The use of electronic books.

Reading purists believe a printed book to be superior to a digital format. The weight of the book in the hands, the smell of the paper, the ability to flick backwards and forwards quickly to check on a fact or re-read a section are some of the advantages they state. There is ongoing research as to the effectiveness of digital platforms in education. Some research suggests that information read from a screen is not comprehended to the same depth as information presented on a printed page. Further research suggests the degree of memorisation is greater when reading a printed page. If, however, e-books appear to be working for your child, I would encourage their continued use. After all, the love of reading and the establishment of a lifelong engagement with learning is the goal.

8. Seek feedback from the teacher.

If you are concerned with your child’s reading or comprehension, speak to the class teacher. Consider the advice they have to offer. Should you still have concerns feel free to speak with us.

9. Boys may need more time.

Research over decades has indicated that boys and girls approach learning in different ways. Some boys are not drawn to books and may need more encouragement before they understand the joy that can be found in a book. This can be puzzling for parents who have a daughter for whom books had an immediate appeal. If your son doesn’t appear interested in books or reading try to find books on the topics that interest him. For example: Lego, soccer or cars.

10. Try to avoid being a ‘Book Snob’.

I personally don’t recommend books such as ‘Captain Underpants’. However, I have met children who have hated reading and fell in love with ‘Captain Underpants’. If it works, it works! Let them read a book that you feel is not the best example of literature as a means to an end. You can then encourage them to explore more ‘suitable’ titles and authors. Think about the longer term goal. The most important consideration is that they fall in love with reading.

11. Read the book before watching the movie version.

A good incentive for reading is to make sure your child understands they can’t see the movie until they have read the book. Consider the modern classic series of Harry Potter. Let your child’s imagination create Hogwart’s Castle, Harry, Hagrid and all the other wonderful characters before they see how one director imagined them on the screen. Once they do watch the movie, think of all the great conversations you can have with them comparing the book to the movie.

12. Concerns shouldn’t be contagious.

If you are feeling anxious about your child’s progress in reading or comprehension, please do not discuss your concern in their presence. It may only lead them to share in your anxiety. They may feel they have ‘failed’. In such cases it will be more difficult to make them enthusiastic about reading.

13. You can’t force enthusiasm.

You can’t force someone to love reading. The old saying, ‘honey will attract more ants than vinegar’ may be useful at this point. If you have a child who is reluctant to read, forcing the issue may only make the problem worse. One way to help them see the value of reading is to read with them or assign a couple of pages a night. For the truly reluctant reader you need to discuss the issue with an education professional. Feel free to discuss the issue with our staff.

14. Be a ‘reading role model’.

If your children grow up seeing you reading they are more likely to read. Lead by example. You are your child’s first teacher. Your influence remains with them throughout their lives. Give them the legacy of reading. A love of learning is the greatest expression of caring a child will ever receive from a parent.

Above all, reading should be an enjoyable activity. It is an essential life skill and working together, parents and educators, we can ensure the children of North Shore will grow to be competent, life-long readers.

Stay happy, inspired and strong!

Tony Hanlon

National Deputy Principal

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