There’s no doubt that children who enjoy reading have an advantage at school. Good reading skills simply make learning that much easier. Enjoyment of reading, however, is difficult to achieve – especially in this day of high amounts of visual input from media devices. Some children may resist reading instruction and consequently fall behind.
In addition, the Education Department is compelling schools to start the teaching of reading at Grade R level, which might be a little young for some children.
The result may be the development of reading anxiety, leading to less than competent reading skills. This in turn may lead to underachievement.
Dr Sylvia Rimm is an internationally respected psychologist who specialises in underachievement. She shared tips to reduce reading anxiety in her book entitled ‘Why bright kids get poor grades: and what you can do about it’. The following summarises her work:
- Children shouldn’t be forced to read aloud to their parents at home. This is because some parents are anxious about their child’s reading and may pass this on to the child. When children read poorly, most parents feel tense.Obviously a child who enjoys reading aloud may do so if he or she choose to do so.
- Parents should continue to read aloud to their children way past the age when they can read for themselves.Sharing the enjoyment of books is important, and there is no reason to stop reading together – even up to Grade 8.
- Children should be allowed to stay up half an hour later at night if they’re in their beds reading to themselves.They won’t miss out on sleep because they’ll most likely fall asleep with the books on their chests. Certainly the reading time allowed will be beneficial.
- Encourage children to read whatever they like during that half hour before sleep.Don’t insist they read school prescribed or grade-level material. Comics, cartoons, sports magazines, easy material and books already read numerous times are all good for reading enjoyment. The important thing is that they learn to love reading. Interest in broadening their reading repertoire will happen as their reading improves.
- Encourage children to read stories while listening to tapes of the stories. Don’t be too concerned if it seems they are not actually reading: they will eventually.
- Model reading by having books on hand that children see you are enjoying. Newspapers and magazine count as well.
- Encourage children to read to their younger siblings – as long as the younger children are not better readers than they are! Try to leave the children alone while they are reading/listening. Don’t hover around them.
- Visit and browse through bookshops and libraries when out shopping.Make sure you have enough time for these visits rather than simply rushing in to exchange books or buy a book. Obviously it’s important that children belong to a library, where they can spend valuable time.