Summer holidays are approaching, and some students (and staff) will be looking forward to a well-earned rest. One of the joys of summer holidays is the opportunity to focus on personal interests and hobbies, and this can include more time to read for pleasure.
When a child regularly reads books they enjoy, they begin to build a lifelong reading habit. Children who read for pleasure on a frequent basis become more confident in their reading skills, and this has a positive impact on their school studies. In my years as a teacher and a school librarian, I have always seen a clear connection between the students in my class who read for pleasure and those who achieve highly: they are the same students. When assessing a piece of writing, I can always tell which students read regularly.
Here, I must give a word of caution: the key is reading for pleasure, not making a child read books in which they are not interested. While there are occasions when students will be studying particular texts in school, reading for pleasure specifically means books (or other reading material) that the child picks up and actively wants to read in their free time. They will be engaged in the process and will not need forcing.
There can be reasons why a child avoids reading, including confidence and ability. To overcome this reluctance, we must address these issues. When a child lacks confidence in their reading, sometimes it is because they are worried about being ‘good enough’ or worry that the book they have is too hard. Some challenge in reading material is good, but too much challenge can make the experience overwhelming and put the child off. Therefore, it is important that a child experiences reading without judgement. It can be tempting to correct every single mistake, but this can have a negative impact so be careful with how you approach this. If a child is making many mistakes, it may be that the book is a little too hard for them now and a better reading choice can be made.
The experience of reading in a language that is not your first can be especially challenging as there is a vast amount of new vocabulary to learn while reading. Students new to English can find support in books that have illustrations, as well as audio books and read-along books. Graphic novels are particularly popular with our older students learning English as the books are engaging for their age and support student understanding through images. Continuing to read in the first language is beneficial as students will continue to develop their comprehension skills, which can be transferred.
There are a few ways to assess the reading difficulty of a book, including the ‘reading level’ and the ‘five finger method’. Our students take reading tests that give them a guide for choosing books. The Accelerated Reader (AR/ATOS) level is one way of measuring the difficulty of a book, and the students are given a score range to help guide them to the ‘just right’ books. As not every book has been given an AR/ATOS level, knowing the ‘five finger’ tool is also helpful. When a child is reading a page, they fold down a finger for every word that they cannot read or do not understand. If they have folded down five fingers by the end of the page, then it may be a little tricky to read independently. However, with some support at home, the child may still enjoy the book.
Another way to encourage children to read is to lead by example. When parents read for pleasure, they are showing that reading is not limited to school. If a child sees reading as a part of everyday life, rather than something that only happens in school, they come to recognise it as an enjoyable activity for their spare time. By reading to and with your child from a young age, they begin to enjoy story time. This can carry on throughout childhood. By exploring libraries and bookstores together, you can understand which books your child enjoys and share your interests with them.
With our continued focus on reading for pleasure this summer, I invite you and your children to take part in our Million Minute Marathon summer reading challenge.
Our aim as a whole school community is to read for at least one million minutes. While this may seem a lot, it averages to 20 minutes of reading per student each day of the summer holidays. If all our parents and staff also join in, we can exceed our target. Any reading material in any language counts, and community members can record their reading by scanning the QR code and filling in the form.
In keeping with the promotion of reading for pleasure, I have put together some collections on Sora to inspire students. These collections include read-alikes (e.g. If you liked Harry Potter, try this), genres, collections by age group and collections by AR/ATOS level. Students should not feel compelled to read every book in their age group or AR level as we have almost 8,000 books to choose from on Sora. Additional reading material can also be found in the eLibrary resources. Access to these resources is either through login details provided on the page (for some trials) or through your child’s school email address and password. Huili Nursery Hangzhou students can access Sora using the short username and password provided with their end of year report.
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