Why Reading is So Important
Reading is not just about reading books. It is a part of everything that we need to do in everyday life. We read labels at the supermarket, signs when we are driving, a complex proposal from a client. Reading then extends to writing too. Reading broadly means that you will also have the awareness and skills to write well in many styles and genres.
Who has heard their child say: “It takes me too long!”, “It’s boring!”, “That book isn’t interesting”, “I only want to read Diary of a Wimpy Kid”. Sound familiar? That is because reading is quite a complex task.
Reading requires physical and cognitive actions such as:
- Fine motor skills
- Controlling eye movements
- Awareness of sounds in spoken words (phonemic awareness)
- Awareness of the relationship between sounds and their written letters (phonics)
- Sustained concentration and interest
- Decoding a word through context clues
- Comprehension of the overall text
Reading is a necessity to develop well rounded literacy skills. The Australian Curriculum defines when a student becomes literate as:
… students become literate as they develop the knowledge, skills and dispositions to interpret and use language confidently for learning and communicating in and out of school and for participating effectively in society. Literacy involves students listening to, reading, viewing, speaking, writing and creating oral, print, visual and digital texts, and using and modifying language for different purposes in a range of contexts …
Many studies have shown that children who read broadly and independently are less stressed, can concentrate for longer and perform better overall in school.
So what are the individual benefits of reading?
1. Expanding the Mind
We all know that the muscles in our body need exercise, but so does our brain. Reading is the best and easiest way to stimulate mental activity and acuity. Simply reading something you already know about or understand is not training your brain, that’s why it is important to read other types of text (fiction, non-fiction, newspapers, magazines, comics, poetry, encyclopaedias…). Tuning your brain into a new topic or a text with phrases/words you’re not familiar with broadens your mindset, it challenges you and increases your knowledge, allowing you a greater understanding of the world.
2. Improved Critical and Analytical Thinking
Have you ever read a really good mystery novel and you find yourself trying to figure out “Who Dunnit?” the whole time? Only to find out that you were right, or close or completely missed the mark! This is analytical and critical thinking. This type of thinking applies to non-fiction texts also and links to developing your mental activity and acuity.
It’s not only fun to do this when reading, but it also provides skills you can use in everyday life when you need to put all the pieces together.
3. Improved Concentration
Picking up a book or magazine to read is a singular and often solitary task. You have to be stationary and totally focused on what is in front of you to fully absorb the material. Reading for just 20 minutes every day will train you to focus on one task for that allotted time, improving your overall focus and concentration.
4. Improved Vocabulary
Every time you read you will definitely come across a word or concept that you’re unaware of or don’t understand. Often the book will utilise context clues to help you understand. Alternatively look them up in a dictionary or encyclopaedia (or Google it, but don’t stay on it for long). Once you know what the word means you’ll see throughout the text how it is used and develop a greater vocabulary.
5. Improved Writing Skills
Every text has a different style of writing. As you read more in quantity and the number of styles you’ll become more aware of the style expected and you can give it a go yourself.
Being able to sit down and focus on one task: reading, for a set period of time helps to reduce stress. It is the basis of meditation. Sit and focus on one thing only for a set period of time. This focuses the brain and can decrease heart rate. As you read more on a regular basis you’ll find that you want to read for longer as you witness the benefits more.
7. Overall improved performance at school
The reason reading broadly is so important is because it is involved in everything we do and your children will do at school. How can they understand the intricacies of Science, Geography and History if they don’t read often or widely? Creating an environment at home and a time for your child to quietly read independently will begin to improve their overall school performance. Reading independently will mean that they take ownership for the action and when they complete it. All necessary skills for improve school performance.
Some people think that they don’t have enough time to read a book. But let us ask you this: does your child watch TV or play on the iPad for more than 30 minutes each afternoon? They’re relaxing and distressing from the day you might say. Wrong. These actions are very often just the brain “shutting down” and then their are still distractions such as Advertisements and Notifications. As we’ve said earlier, reading allows you to focus on one thing.
Next time, lead by example, switch off all devices and allow everyone to have some quiet time to read.
Find out how these 7 Strategies can improve reading comprehension.
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