Just before the winter break, I spied a growing list of recommended books for holiday reading affixed to the wall in the staff room in the Junior School. The heart of this librarian sang.
I wasn’t surprised; we are a community of readers at the Junior School. My colleagues love books. They love to read and discuss books, whether they be children’s or adult’s titles. One of a teacher’s goals is to help students fall in love with books.
Everyone works together to foster the development of reading skills and love of literature.
In fact, there is a real culture of reading on all three campuses at SMUS, where students are surrounded by books, and dedicated professionals guide the students’ relationships with books.
Why this commitment to reading and books? After all, there are popular views in some circles that say that reading doesn’t matter as much in our digital world, and some educators have dismantled libraries entirely. However, here at the Junior School, reading is viewed as the essential building block of learning.
Dr. David Booth, professor Emeritus of Elementary Education at Ontario Institute for Studies in Education says: “Students’ enjoyment of reading is a significant factor in their future success in all subjects … a positive attitude (toward reading) is the foundation for true literacy and will improve their achievement all the way through school.”
Numerous studies have proven the impact of reading on young learners’ minds. Some of the benefits of reading are:
- a wider vocabulary
- better writing skills
- a deeper understanding of a subject
- development of interests
- easier acquisition of a second language
- better grades in school.
Another significant benefit of reading is improved social skills. Student readers become more understanding of themselves and others, and develop empathy and compassion.
To support their connection to reading, it is important that parents and teachers work as partners to foster a love of books.
What could parental support look like to help instill a love of reading? Here are some possible approaches to consider:
- Model reading. Parents and other family members regularly model reading preferred materials such as books, magazines, newspapers, digital books and work journals. If you read, children will realize it is viewed as something important at home. It will be an advertisement for reading.
- Let children choose books that pique their curiosity. Children regularly have the opportunity to self-select books of interest in our ever-growing library collection at the Junior School. Allow them to spend time exploring books at a public library as well. Don’t worry if they cannot read them independently. Provide support as they peruse these materials, and they just may find a deep interest.
- Read to your child often. Read at bedtime or at a time that is best for you, and it is also recommended that families set aside time, maybe 30 minutes on appointed days to read together. Perhaps choose a book that the entire family will enjoy hearing. “Almost as big of a mistake as not reading to children at all, is stopping too soon.” Jim Trelease, The Read-Aloud Handbook. On those very busy nights when the time for reading to children is elusive, remember you can supplement with audio books. The public library has a large collection.
- Never make reading a punishment. For instance, “You cannot play the computer game you love until you read three more pages.”
- Allow children to stop reading if they are not enjoying it (unless it has been assigned). They don’t have to complete every book. However, they should not give up on a title too soon. Some books require a bit of perseverance before they grab your child’s interest, so it is suggested that they read a minimum of three chapters before making the decision to stop reading. Remind your child of the five-finger test if the book is to be a pleasurable read.
Here at the Junior School, we are all committed to the development of literate students who enjoy exploring story first, and as they mature, they enjoy the examination of thoughts and ideas and feelings. By Grade 5 students are being encouraged to thoughtfully evaluate novels and nonfiction materials. They are developing the critical thinking skills that are so important in our information world.
We look forward to hearing, “I like to read,” “I am a good reader,” and “Can we have more reading time?”. Our goal is to help children become lifelong readers who have fallen in love with books, just as their teachers have.