How can we help emerging readers progress successfully, intermediate children connect with reading and secondary students maintain that love of reading? How can we help people see reading as meaningful in their lives?
We have not yet answered all the questions about the best approaches to literacy learning, as demonstrated by the current critique of the value of New Zealand’s Reading Recovery Programme and the ‘phonics versus whole language’ debate. But CHILDREN CAN’T WAIT for these debates to be settled, so while we continue learning about what is most effective in literacy development we need to apply what we know about achieving better outcomes for our children now.
We need to develop lifelong readers, thirsty for books, with a habit and love of reading.
The key to better educational outcomes is proving to be growing strong capable readers who love books and reading. Research from educationalist Stephen Krashen concludes that:
No single literacy activity has a more positive effect on students’ comprehension, vocabulary knowledge, spelling, writing ability, and overall academic achievement than free voluntary reading.”
2013 research from the Centre for Longitudinal Studies in London revealed that reading for pleasure is more important for children’s cognitive development between the ages of 10 and 16 than their parents’ level of education. This same research linked reading for pleasure to greater progress in spelling and mathematics skills.
Donalyn Miller argues in The Book Whisperer that voluntary reading is of utmost importance and must have personal value. It should also be free from anxiety and be modelled by people who emergent readers like, respect, trust and want to emulate.
Upon reflection on the above research, my thoughts for supporting success in reading include:
- prioritising adequate time to read;
- mixed reading exposure.
Mixed reading exposure means providing plenty of reading opportunities, including:
- providing easy access to books;
- offering a variety of books to help develop personal reading tastes;
- empowering readers by giving them the choice of their own reading material;
- being a role-model by regularly reading around children and sharing information about what you are reading with them;
- openly discussing and responding positively to children’s reading;
- moving the focus from the techniques of reading to engagement in reading;
- reading to, with, and by children.
This last point leads me to a reading activity that I am very passionate about, reading aloud to children! More on that here on Corpus.
Charlotte Molloy is a primary school teacher, mother of three and schools’ specialist bookseller at the University Book Shop, Dunedin, New Zealand.
- Stephen D. Krashen. The Power of Reading (Libraries Unlimited, 2009).
- Sullivan, A. and Brown, M.(2013). “Social inequalities in cognitive scores at age 16: The role of reading.” CLS
Working Paper 2013/10. London: Centre for Longitudinal Studies.
- Miller, Donalyn. The Book Whisperer: Awakening the Inner Reader in Every Child (Jossey-Bass, 2009).
- Mooney, Margaret. Reading To, With, and By Children (Owen, Richard C., 1990).
- Interactive Reading Opportunities Beyond the Early Years: What Educators Need to Consider (2017 Research paper) – Margaret Kristin Merga, Senior Lecturer in Education – Murdoch University Australia
- Australian Kids and Family Reading Report (2015) – Scholastic Australia, in conjunction with YouGov.
- Trelease, Jim. The Read-Aloud Handbook, 7th edition (Penguin, 2013).