“How do I know if my child is ready to read” is second in the “Raising Readers” series, a Kidskintha initiative meant to encourage parents and children to explore imaginative worlds through the written word.
Does it even matter if my kid is ready to read?
We’ve heard it often enough- “Reading is the key to academic success” and there are studies carried out again and again that reinforce the validity of this statement. But, what does your experience of schooling in India inform you?
As a student in India, haven’t we been in classrooms with peers who disliked reading for knowledge or for the joy; but who aced exams year on year? We’ve met them, they’re our friends, our relatives, and possibly ourselves too.
So, why read? In the Indian schooling system, one can succeed academically without being especially skilled at reading. Being literate is enough, isn’t it? Does one really need to be an avid reader or book lover?
Why do we read?
To answer that question, we need to dismantle the act of reading. Why do we read or need to? We read for information (how to do something), to understand perspectives, to explore ideas and worlds not of our own, to build a rich vocabulary, to get inspired and learn from the lives of others, to be better at something without necessarily relying on another human, to become interesting people, who through the act of reading, have developed a curious and fertile mind which is able to comprehend, analyze, and synthesize information.
Is this convincing? Consider this: “But deep, broad reading habits are often a defining characteristic of our greatest leaders and can catalyze insight, innovation, empathy, and personal effectiveness.”
Reading widely and deeply doesn’t just feed your internal and interpersonal life, it is also a significant facet of leadership development.
So, how do we encourage our children to become better at the art and skill of reading? We’ve touched on one dimension of the how in our earlier article, Reading To Your Baby: 8 Tried-and-Tested Tips To Raising Readers Early On , where I’ve proposed that one cannot hope to have kids who love reading without being an avid reader ourselves. So, the first step is to develop our own joy for the written word and then put habits in place that will encourage our kids to develop the habit of reaching out for a book and then the skill of comprehending it.
But, how long do parents continue playing the primary role in reading to and with our kids and when can we expect kids to become independent readers?
Is your kid ready to read?
I reached that point of impatiently waiting for my daughter to begin independent reading by the 3rd year of her life after the 123134235235th re-reading of Madeline and Thumper and all those picture books meant for early readers. I just couldn’t read one more book!. It had become a painful chore and I didn’t enjoy it anymore. To hasten her along to read independently, I jumped in feet first, without any clue of physical, emotional, intellectual readiness, my daughter was introduced to reading programs such as Starfall. Fortunately, there were no lasting issues…but there could’ve been. My impatience could have turned her off reading forever.
Don’t do what I did.
Arm yourself with research and make an informed decision. Go through this handy checklist of the dimensions of reading readiness and resources for you to dig deeper to determine if your kid/s are ready to read.
Reading readiness can be compared to preparing the soil to plant a seed.
The temperature, soil texture, and quality, sunlight, water needs are specific to the kind of plant you want to grow. Like for instance, the needs of succulent plants are very different from the requirements of rose bushes.
So, each child is ready for reading at their own unique timetable and although the developmental sequence followed is universal; the rate of development for each child is highly individual.
Here’s a handy checklist to take the guesswork out of the equation.
The ready to read handy checklist
- Vision: Are there any vision issues that need correction? Is the child near or far sighted?
- Hearing, Speaking: Reading, talking and listening are intertwined enough to be inseparable. Is the child responding to his or her name? Does the child suffer from recurrent ear infections? Are there any other developmental delays such as spectrum disorders?
- Fine motor skills- Knows how to hold a book, turn a page, point at objects.
- General well being– Is the child well-rested? Does the child have a healthy appetite, cheerful demeanor? Does the child suffer from chronic illnesses?
- Listening and speaking
- Speaks in complete sentences.
- Listens to short stories and can narrate the story back in sequence.
- Recites rhymes and short poems
- Identifies alphabets and phonetic sounds
- Decodes words
- Recognises and identifies developmentally appropriate sight words
- Interested in words/Vocabulary. Does he show interest in using a wide range of words as descriptors in his everyday language?
- Engages with caregivers in developmentally appropriate and meaningful conversations
- Associates emotions and feelings with words.
- Is the child motivated to read? Does she reach out for a book to be read for pleasure?
- Listening and speaking
The biggest factor by far. Are the parents involved or neglectful to the child? Are the family members stressed and is there a constant conflict at home? All children need an atmosphere of safety, security, and love to grow and thrive, so if the environment is lacking, child development is negatively impacted.
An extension of the environment, do caregivers interact with the child? Is the child encouraged to express herself? Does the child speak in complete sentences?
Is the child developing within the range of normal development? Are there any delays, if so, what kind? Are there vision, hearing, or general health issues?
OK. The child is well-rested, generally healthy, is developing normally for age, doesn’t have vision or hearing issues, communicates with caregivers using complete sentences, descriptive language, and a variety of words. Now what?
One approach would be to continue your habits and wait for the day when your child begins to initiate reading while you listen.
Or you can reach for numerous reading programs. A quick search will pull up results from Kumon, which is a step by step reading curriculum to Reading Bears, a multimedia based program and books such as “Teach your child to read in 100 easy lessons”.