Children and Reading
A Teacher wrote to me: “I am a teacher in elementary school. I know that technology will change many things and I am worried about my students. What advice should I give to my students and their parents to help them learn more and grow up successfully? Please advise.”
Answer: When I think about the skill that has helped me in my life, it is my passion for reading. Since I was young, I love to read books where I learned many things. I think all children must read more than the school requires. At the elementary level, my advice for teachers is to encourage children to develop a passion for reading as it is the best way to develop the skill of self-learning and eventually become lifelong learners.
Books should be the main source of interest for all children as they will find what they like and continue to learn more. Teachers and parents should help them find their own interest by allowing them to read as many books as possible. Books allowing children to explore many things and enrich their lives with adventures, scientific knowledge, and even careers. When I was in kindergarten, I wanted to be an explorer to find dinosaurs then by the third grade, I wanted to be a teacher as I looked up to many of them and admire them. Today there are so many books available for young children and I encourage parents to get them access to as many topics as possible. In the near future, every student needs to know at least one foreign language so having elementary students begin to read bilingual books can help them to learn a foreign language too.
Three centuries ago, the philosopher Joseph Addison wrote: “Reading is to the mind what exercise is to the body.” Today modern science has proved that reading increases the blood flow to the brain and increases neuron connectivity which is often associated with memory and intelligence. The age between three to seven is the time where children’s brain is developing so having them read more could have a significant advantage to their learning later. At that age, children also developing their ability to speak fully and reading can improve their conversational skills as it increases their vocabulary and knowledge of how to correctly use new words, and clearly articulate what they want to say. The knowledge they gain from reading also gives them lots to talk about with others. Children who read more often have much deeper and more thoughtful in their conversation as compared to children who read less.
When children read, their brain absorbs a lot of vocabulary and spelling. New words appear in their natural context and they can deduce meaning from the surrounding words, while visually imprinting their spelling for accurate recall. Today many children do not read much but use other technology media such as video games, and develop a bad habit of having instant information, their attention spans are getting shorter and their anger often increases which create bad behavior. Reading a book forces them to focus and pay attention to the detail then their brain forms deep connections and concentration which lead them to develop more patience and much calmer.
As a teacher, the best advice you can give to your children and their parents is to encourage them to read more and develop a good reading habit.
- Blogs of Prof. John Vu, Carnegie Mellon University