I tend to write a bit about reading because it’s such a fundamental learning skill and also because it can be a lifelong pleasure.
However, I’ve learned a few things about reading in my role as education editor at BLACK ENTERPRISE and also as a parent: chiefly that you need to be intentional about making reading an attractive, pleasurable activity for children in a world that offers so many faster, more exciting, less demanding alternatives. (Although, I would argue, nothing is more exciting than a well-written book.)
5 More Minutes Adds Up to Thousands More Words
Education Week reported on What Kids Are Reading, a report which yields some enlightening information: that struggling readers who read an extra roughly five minutes more every day caught up to the top half of readers in their grade by the end of the school year.
Over the course of fifth grade, EW writes, the students who caught up read 200,000 more words than their struggling peers had.
Other notable differences: The kids who caught up chose more challenging books to read; and their comprehension scores were higher than those of the students who continued to struggle.
Although a literacy expert was reluctant to credit the pupils’ reading improvement to the additional five minutes a day, saying that some other factor “such as increased parental involvement, caused both” the interest in reading more and the reading skill development, I would say that the more you practice anything the better you get at it.
Of course, you want to make sure your child is reading books he or she finds engaging. For young boys, Alvin Irby of Barbershop Books recommends humor. I heartily recommend a nightly reading ritual—there’s nothing cozier for children than being read to in bed.
Notably, the study showed that such dramatic reading gains could occur even as late as eighth grade. Speaking of older children, there’s nothing wrong with continuing to read to them even after they learn to read competently, if they like being read to.
I have a friend who used to read her daughter’s high school textbooks to her when her daughter wasn’t feeling well. Her daughter graduated from college Phi Beta Kappa.
Unfortunately, the study also showed that interest in reading declines after elementary school: Top eighth grade readers read for only 16 minutes a day; those at the bottom read for only 10.
To make your child a lifelong reader takes more than good books, however. It also means developing your child’s curiosity about the world around them. Curious children want to learn, and that desire drives an interest in reading.