Reading, Exercise for the Brain

A young persons reading capability and capacity and their ability to comprehend what they read are still, and always will be key skills that need to be continually developed if they are to be fully engaged and successful in their learning journey.

There seems to be a level of growing concern that we are currently becoming a nation of near illiterates and that the ability of younger generations to concentrate on reading is nowhere near as good as it was in the past. This concern is voiced not only here but around the world, the reality however is nowhere near this totally gloomy generalization. There does seem to be however, an increasing gap between those who are very capable readers and those who need some assistance and encouragement to make progress in their reading development.

What we all need to realise is that reading is still an important skill that needs to be encouraged and supported if we want our children to be able to fully access all of the opportunities that are available to them in our modern world. We have to accept that an increasing amount of this ‘reading’ is going to be done through a screen rather than a book, this is not necessarily a bad thing, it is just a fact.

How a young person accesses reading material and indeed what they read is not as important as the fact that they are reading and that they feel comfortable and confident about reading a wide range of genres. In some ways we have to see reading for a sustained period of time as exercise for the brain. The brain is a muscle and if it isn’t exercised then it will not be able to perform to the best of its ability. After all a top athlete trains their muscles to be able to perform at optimum level so why wouldn’t we have the same attitude towards exercising our brain so that we can think and reason at our optimum level.

Reading must also be fun, a pleasure and that is why we need to encourage our children to read what interests them, otherwise it will become a chore and be seen as something to be avoided. As I said above what is being read is not always that important, There is a power of information on a cereal box and any number of discussion opportunities that information can encourage.

I am not a great believer in homework for the sake of homework. I am not in favour of busy tasks being set for homework as there is no evidence that meaningless homework has any beneficial results on learning. To be honest I would rather see our learners reading for pleasure, having discussions with family members about whatever is on their mind or involving themselves in activities. Never underestimate just how important ‘play’ is for all of us, but this is a topic for a future post. I do believe that time spent reading is as worthwhile in fact more worthwhile than the majority of traditional homework tasks.

Why?

Well through reading we develop our ability to comprehend, communicate, analyse, sift information, develop the ability to see fact from fiction, understand the concept of plagiarism and develop an empathy with people who differ from ourselves. We get to see a variety of perspectives, visit different places and be subject to new ideas. In short it allows us to grow our vocab but also our caring mind.

If reading is important then how can we encourage it?

  1. Encourage and support reading for pleasure [within reason of course] and try not to judge what is ‘good’ reading. Let young people read what interests them and use their interests to encourage and develop further reading.
  2. Share what you are reading with your children, Have a discussion about what you are reading and ask them about what they are reading. Use reading as something to develop discussions from
  3. Don’t be afraid to read aloud something that interests you and encourage your children to do the same.
  4. Encourage variety in reading and emphasize that reading serves a number of purposes, one of the most important of these is pleasure and fun.
  5. Try not to be too judgmental, believe it or not your child is probably better at reading from a screen than you are just as they are probably faster with their use of a keyboard. They are also more adept at reading some forms of literature than you are, instruction material around computer programmes and games for example.
  6. Above all encourage and be interested in reading and sharing reading.

 

 

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