The art of reading is more than just decoding words on a page. It’s about diving deep, understanding the material, and extracting knowledge from it. As parents, teachers, or caregivers, how can we encourage children not only to read but to engage actively with what they’re reading? Let’s delve into this matter.
What is active reading
Active reading is a cognitive process where the reader engages interactively with the text, making connections to their experiences, predicting outcomes, questioning, and interpreting the material. It is a crucial skill that fosters comprehension and forms the basis for critical thinking.
Active reading is a dynamic and interactive approach to reading that involves much more than just sounding out words. Instead, readers actively engage with the text by questioning, visualising, predicting, summarising, and connecting with prior knowledge. It transforms reading from a passive activity into an active exploration of ideas, plots, characters, and contexts.
For children, active reading builds a foundation for comprehension and critical thinking. It allows them to connect personally with the material, resulting in a deeper and more meaningful understanding of what they read.
Importance of active reading in children
Active reading is a more involved way of engaging with text, and is essential for children to truly harness the full benefits of reading. Here’s why:
Enhances Comprehension: Active reading means not just decoding the words but truly understanding and internalising what they mean. This deep understanding allows children to remember what they read and apply this knowledge in other contexts.
Develops Critical Thinking: Active reading encourages children to ask questions, make connections, and evaluate information. These are the cornerstones of critical thinking, a skill that becomes increasingly important as children advance in their education and navigate through life.
Broadens Vocabulary: Engaging deeply with texts exposes children to new words and phrases. This not only boosts their vocabulary but also helps in improving their speaking and writing skills.
Boosts Retention: Children are more likely to remember information they’ve actively engaged with. By visualising, questioning, and connecting with the text, they’re essentially reinforcing their memory pathways.
Encourages a Lifelong Love for Reading: Active reading is often more enjoyable than passive reading. When children feel connected to the story or content and understand it, they’re more likely to enjoy the process and develop a lifelong love for reading.
Improves Focus and Concentration: Active reading requires a higher level of concentration than passive reading. Practising active reading can thus help children develop their focus, an essential skill in our increasingly distracted world.
Enhances Empathy and Cultural Awareness: Through active reading, children deeply engage with characters from various backgrounds and circumstances. This can help them develop empathy as they step into the shoes of others and see the world from different viewpoints.
Introducing Active Reading to Children
Here are some strategies for encouraging active reading and comprehension in kids:
Model the Process: One of the most powerful ways to teach children is by example. When you read with your child, verbalise your thoughts. Ask questions like, “I wonder why the character did that?” or “This reminds me of the time when…”. This models the process of active reading for them.
Ask Open-Ended Questions: Instead of asking questions that have a straightforward answer, pose questions that encourage thinking. For instance, “How do you think the story will end?” or “Why do you think the character feels that way?”
Encourage Visualisation: Ask your child to imagine the setting, the characters, and the events of the story. This can be done through drawing or just discussing what they picture in their minds. Visualization brings the text to life and fosters a deeper connection with the material.
Summarise and Predict: After reading a section, encourage your child to summarise what has happened. This helps reinforce their understanding. Additionally, ask them to make predictions about what might happen next. This keeps them actively engaged and eager to read further.
Connect to Prior Knowledge: Relate the story or information to something your child already knows. This might mean connecting a story’s theme to a personal experience or relating a piece of information to a known fact.
Highlight and Annotate: For older children, using highlighters or sticky notes can be a valuable tool. They can mark passages they find intriguing, jot down questions, or note their reactions.
Encourage Discussion: After reading, discuss the material. This can be in the form of a casual conversation, a book club-type discussion, or even acting out certain scenes. This reinforces understanding and allows for various interpretations and insights.
Introduce Varied Genres: Expose your child to different types of literature – from fantasy to biographies. This broadens their understanding of the world and challenges them to apply active reading strategies across varied contexts.
Set Up a Reading-Friendly Environment: Create a space conducive to reading, free from distractions. Having a comfortable nook with good lighting and a selection of books can make a world of difference.
Celebrate Reading: Encourage a positive attitude towards reading. This could be in the form of a reward system, joining a library, or simply celebrating the end of a book with a special treat or activity.
Benefits of Encouraging Active Reading and Comprehension in Kids
Reading is a gift, and by encouraging active reading and comprehension, we are giving children the tools they need to understand and engage with the world more fully. Here are some benefits of encouraging active reading and comprehension in children:
Boosted Cognitive Skills: Active reading enhances cognitive skills like analysis, synthesis, and evaluation. Kids become sharper thinkers and are better equipped to handle complex tasks.
Enhanced Vocabulary and Language Skills: Engaging actively with texts exposes children to a richer vocabulary and improves their language skills.
Better Retention: Children who practice active reading tend to retain information better, as they connect with the material on multiple levels.
Development of Empathy: When kids connect deeply with characters and situations in stories, they learn to see the world from various perspectives, fostering empathy.
Enjoyment and Lifelong Reading Habit: Active reading makes the process more enjoyable. When children find joy in reading, they’re more likely to develop a lifelong reading habit, enriching their lives immeasurably.
Enhanced Academic Performance: Active reading and comprehension are critical to academic success. These skills are transferable across subjects and lead to better performance in school.
Reading is an investment in their present and future, fostering not just academic success, but also personal growth and development. Embrace the strategies mentioned, and watch your child blossom into a thoughtful and curious reader.
If you’re looking to encourage the art of reading and learning from an early age, then start with EuroKids Preschool today, where we believe in fostering an environment that focuses on holistic learning and development of the child.