James Skillicorn, head of Juniors at Great Walstead School, looks at the past and present of teaching reading to young ones and explains how you can nurture your children to become more intelligent, inquisitive little bookworms.
Reading has been important for hundreds of years. No doubt it will remain important in the foreseeable future. Why is this? Through reading children can more easily unlock their potential in all areas of the school curriculum; through reading children can learn valuable life skills as most literature throughout history has been based on these skills; through reading children can become more knowledgeable in a plethora of specific areas; through reading children can enter worlds that only exist in story; through reading children can develop their own writing skills; and then there are the hours of enjoyment and conversation that can be had through reading.
Schools have long realised the importance of reading. Reading readiness is promoted in the early years by regular exposure to picture, story and information books. There then follows the careful crafting of phonics training, reading practice, guided reading, book talk and exposure to an ever-widening range of reading material. Children go on to look more closely at a variety of genres by different authors once reading proficiency is established. Genres include novels, poems, plays, biographies, correspondences, and non-fiction works. Throughout school days reading is celebrated in Book Week activities, dramatic performances and author visits to name a few.
Examining literature is not done lightly in schools today. For example, as part of their reading lessons most eight-year-old children across the country will be discussing authors’ intentions, examining the roles of the narrators, making predictions, making connections with the works of other authors and with material found in the multi-media, examining a wide range of genres, as well as having fun with their reading.
So what can parents do at home?
Probably the most important thing that parents can do is to actively show their children that they love reading.
By growing up in a house where literature is cherished and discussed, children learn to understand that reading is a multi-faceted and wonderful activity. Parents of very young children can help their children develop reading readiness by sharing books with them from babyhood. For some parents the stage of listening to children reading can be difficult to fit into a busy routine, but it pays huge dividends if this can be done. Surprisingly for some, this time of reading together can develop and strengthen bonds particularly if discussions about the reading material become a regular part of the process.
It is also important for parents to understand that children take years to fully develop their reading skills and that some children take longer than others. Along the way some children may look at the reading process as hard work and so will need more nurturing and sensitive encouragement. Some children may develop a preference for a particular type of reading like non-fiction books, for example. Whilst this is to be praised and endorsed, parents should also encourage these children not to ignore other types of literature.
In a world where the pace of life is becoming ever faster, schools and homes can be sanctuaries where time is invested in enjoying reading together. The internet, computer games and the way films are repeatedly viewed on DVDs may well be factors that tempt children away from sustained reading. However, these influences are compensated for by the myriad beautifully written and illustrated books now available, and paradoxically by the fact that reading is an integral part of what children play and study on the internet. So it seems that reading will continue to be a vital part of life for many years to come.
For more information on Great Walstead School go to greatwalstead.co.uk