Fives ways that reading with children helps their education



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Story time.
Moneky Business Images/Shutterstock

Emma Vardy, Coventry University

For book lovers, reading to their children may seem obvious. Why would they not want to pass on their love of literature? However, researchers have shown there are more benefits for both adult and child that come with reading than just building a bond – particularly when it comes to education.

A lot of research has been done into the effects of children engaging with literacy related activities at home. Much of this focuses on the early years, and how the literacy environment helps to develop emergent literacy skills. Shared book reading early on stimulates language and reading development, for example.

But the home literacy environment doesn’t stop being important once children have learnt to read. The opportunities that a child has to read at the home, and parental beliefs and behaviours, continue to impact on children’s reading throughout the school years. Here are just five ways that reading with your child can help their general education.

1. It opens up new worlds

Reading together as a family can instil a love of books from an early age. By taking the time to turn the pages together, adults can help children see that reading is something to enjoy and not a chore. Some schoolchildren read because they like it but others do it because they will be rewarded – with stickers in a school reading diary for example. Those children who read because they enjoy it read more books, and read more widely too. So giving your child a love of books helps expand their horizons.

2. It can build confidence

Children judge their own ability to read from observing their classroom peers, and from conversations with parents and teachers. When sharing a book, and giving positive feedback, parents can help children develop what is known as self-efficacy – a perceived ability to complete the specific activity at hand. Self-efficacy has been shown to be important for word reading. Children who think they cannot read will be less inclined to try, but by using targeted praise while reading together, parents can help children develop belief in their own skills.

3. It can build positive reading attitudes

Studies have shown that the more opportunities a child has to engage with literacy based activities at home, the more positive their reading attitudes tend to be. Children are more likely to read in their leisure time if there is another member of the family that reads, creating a reading community the child feels they belong to. Parental beliefs and actions are related to children’s own motivations to read, though of course it is likely that this relationship is bidirectional –- parents are more likely to suggest reading activities if they know that their child has enjoyed them in the past.

Sharing an old favourite.
VGstockstudio/Shutterstock

4. It expands their language

When reading a book together, children are exposed to a wide range of language. In the early stages of literacy development this is extremely important. Good language development is the foundation to literacy development after all, and increased language exposure is one of the fundamental benefits of shared book reading.

Shared book reading early on can have a long-term benefit by increasing vocabulary skills. And if they encounter a word they don’t understand, they have a grown up on hand to explain it to them in a way that makes sense to them. When children are taught to read while sharing a book, it can improve alphabet knowledge, decoding skills, spelling, and other book-related knowledge (such as how to actually read a book). Doing something as simple as sounding out the letters of a word they do not understand can vastly improve a child’s skills.

5. It can help their speech and language awareness

Formal shared reading can also involve the use of intonation, rhythm and pauses to model what is known as prosody. This is not a skill that is directly taught, but by simply pausing when needed or changing the tone of your voice can help children develop fluency when reading aloud. This is one of the reasons that shared book reading is not just for pre-schoolers. Demonstrating what is involved in reading complex text aloud fluently is very valuable for children of all ages.

You don’t need a lot of money, or even hours of spare time to read with children. Even small efforts can have big benefits. Nor does it have to be just at bedtime. Sharing a book, a magazine or a comic can take place any time of the day.

The most important thing to remember is to have fun. Interest in reading emerges from enjoying it with a parent. If you’re interested and make an effort, it can have a huge impact on a child’s engagement with reading.The Conversation

Emma Vardy, Research Associate, Psychology of Education, Coventry University

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

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Books are delightful as they are – don’t fall in the trap of competitive reading



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Sally O’Reilly, The Open University

My happiest times in childhood were spent reading the books of E. Nesbit, C.S. Lewis and Joan Aiken. Preferring to read in hidden corners where nobody could find me, I immersed myself completely in these stories and believed utterly in their magic, even attempting to enter Narnia via the portal of my grandmother’s wardrobe. As an adult, I still call myself a passionate reader, but sometimes feel as if I’ve lost my way compared to my childhood self. I buy vast quantities of books, talk about books, read as many as possible, sometimes even write them – but it’s not often I find that same pure immersion in an imagined world which has been such a lasting inspiration.

Celebrations like World Book day promote children’s reading and remind us all of the pleasures of a good book. Many of us make resolutions to read more, but these days there’s increasing pressure to read the “right” thing. The adult world presents a constant temptation to turn every activity into a competitive sport, and reading is no exception: it is beset with targets, hierarchies and categorisations. We guilt-read chick-lit and crime, skim-read for book groups and improvement-read from book prize shortlists.

Underpinning this is a relentless quest for self-improvement, demonstrated by the popularity of reading challenges, in which readers set themselves individual book consumption targets. On Good Reads, some participants have modest goals, others aim for as many as 190 in the year, which translates to 15.8 books a month, 3.6 a week or just over half a book each day. Impressive? Maybe, but others are reading even faster. One journalist recently embarked on a seven day social media detox and read a dozen books in that time. It’s a far cry from my days with Mr Tumnus.

A profound joy

This raises a fundamental question: why do we read at all? Do we want to enjoy books, or download them into our brains? Are we so obsessed with being able to tick a book title off a check-list that we risk forgetting that reading is a physical and emotional activity as well as an intellectual one? The perceived benefits of reading are often given more attention than the experience itself: campaigners tend to stress its utilitarian value and research findings that it increases empathy and even life expectancy.

But the reading experience is important. A sure sign of loving a book is slowing down when you come to the final pages, reluctant to leave the world it creates behind. As the UK reading agency puts it, “in addition to its substantial practical benefits, reading is one of life’s profound joys”. Children seem to know this intuitively, and engage fully with a story, often to the exclusion of all else. They are demanding, honest readers, more interested in what happens in a tale and where it takes them than whether it’s a Carnegie prize-winner.

When was the last time you truly got lost in a book?
Amanda Carden/Shutterstock

Slow reading

As an adult, it is possible to recapture that immersive involvement with a book. What we need is the opportunity to focus entirely on the words, and a willingness to ignore stress-inducing challenges and targets. When I was writing my second novel I lived in Barcelona for a year, day-job free. During that time I read just six books, one of them Joseph Conrad’s The Secret Agent. At a recent writing retreat, I spent two hours a day reading Michel Faber’s The Crimson Petal and the White. I engaged completely with these novels, forgetting the outside world, and they have stayed with me, their characters and plot twists vivid and familiar when other books, read hurriedly in snatches amid distractions, have faded from my mind.

I’m not alone in seeing the value of immersive, non-competitive reading. In a recent Guardian article, author Sarah Waters admitted to feeling out of the loop when current writing is discussed. Asked which book she is “most ashamed not to have read” (a telling phrase), she responded, “Anything people are currently raving about. I’m a slow reader, and I read old books as often as new ones, so I always feel like a hopeless failure when it comes to keeping up with brand new titles”.

There are already advocates of slow living, and a cultural shift toward slowing down life’s pace, savouring experience and rediscovering human connection. Perhaps it is time for this to encompass reading too. 184,000 books are published each year in the UK alone, and we’re not going to make much of a dent in that pile even if we read 12 books a week. Indeed, no matter how fast we read, the vast majority of books will remain unknown to us. If there is one skill that adult readers can usefully learn from children, it is that of reading purely for pleasure.The Conversation

Sally O’Reilly, Lecturer in Creative Writing, The Open University

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Read aloud to your children to boost their vocabulary



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Children still benefit from being read to after they’ve learned to read by themselves.
Herald Post/flickr, CC BY-NC

Margaret Kristin Merga, Edith Cowan University

Words are powerful, and a rich vocabulary can provide young people with significant advantages. Successful vocabulary development is associated with better vocational, academic and health outcomes.

When parents read books aloud to their children from an early age, this offers notable advantages for children’s vocabulary development. This gives them a broader range of possible word choices.




Read more:
Research shows the importance of parents reading with children – even after children can read


Research also suggests children who don’t have the opportunity for shared reading are comparatively disadvantaged. If we want our children to be able to draw on a rich vocabulary to express themselves clearly, we need to read to them. Developing a child’s vocabulary is a valuable investment in their future.

Benefits of reading aloud

In the very early years, spoken vocabularies have been associated with higher achievement in reading and maths, and better ability to regulate behaviour. Vocabulary is also linked to success in reading comprehension and related word recognition skills.

Much of a child’s vocabulary is acquired through daily conversations. Shared reading aloud can provide a valuable additional source of new words children can use to power their expression. Research suggests the text of picture books offers access to more diverse vocabulary than child-directed conversations.

At some point, most of us have experienced the frustration of searching for an elusive word that is essential to clearly communicate an idea or a need. When children speak or write, they draw on their vocabulary to make word selections that will optimise the clarity and accuracy of their expression.

Reading can make for valuable parent-child bonding time.
from http://www.shutterstock.com

Beyond vocabulary, reading aloud offers numerous additional benefits for children. Reading aloud may support students to develop sustained attention, strong listening skills, and enhanced cognitive development.

Recent research also suggests children who are read to from an early age may be less likely to experience hyperactivity. Children who are at risk of reading difficulties may particularly benefit from being read to. Children who are learning English as an additional language may experience better reading comprehension when they are read to in English.

Reading aloud with your child is also valuable parent-child time. It can strengthen the parent-child relationship and foster reading engagement, which is essential if we want our children to enjoy the benefits of being a life-long reader.

How can I optimise vocabulary growth for my child?

Vocabulary development can be improved through explicit teaching techniques such as providing definitions for new words. For example, while reading to your child, when you encounter a new word you may pause and ask the child what they think it means.

If they’re unsure, you can then read a little further along so the word is encountered in a context that can give valuable clues about meaning. If the meaning is still unclear, you can provide a definition for your child so you can move on.

A recent study found approaches that involve pointing, providing definitions, and asking some questions as you read together can be good for vocabulary building.

Recent research found nearly identical gains in vocabulary where children were read to either using explicit techniques (such as pointing and giving definitions) or a more engaging storytelling approach. In the storytelling approach, the adult reading to the child added contextual information, which made the child more interested and engaged in the story.




Read more:
Enjoyment of reading, not mechanics of reading, can improve literacy for boys


Children will also benefit from hearing the same story a number of times. It’s also a good idea to use some of the new language in subsequent conversation if possible. This can increase exposure and strengthen retention of new words.




Read more:
There’s a reason your child wants to read the same book over and over again


What if I don’t have a book?

We may not always have a book at hand. In these cases, you can draw on your creativity and tell a story, which can also benefit vocabulary.

While there is limited research in this area, one study compared telling a child a story or reading them a story with a child reading silently to themselves. The study found all three groups of children learned new words. But telling a story and reading a story to a child offered superior gains in vocabulary.

Beating the barriers

Research suggests that children may be aware of the benefits of listening to books read aloud. This awareness can be a source of regret for the child when reading aloud at home ends, but they still enjoy shared reading. Children may continue to enjoy and benefit from being read to beyond the early years. You should keep reading with your children as long as they let you.

Children get more benefit out of shared reading than reading alone.
from http://www.shutterstock.com

By far, the biggest barrier raised by parents to reading aloud to their children was the formidable barrier of time. If reading aloud becomes a routine part of family life, like dinner and bedtime, this barrier may be overcome as the practice becomes an everyday event.

Due to diverse issues faced in homes and families, not all parents will be able to read their child a book, or tell them a story. This is why it’s still so important for schools to provide opportunities for students to regularly listen to engaging and culturally diverse books.




Read more:
Ten ways teacher librarians improve literacy in schools


But reading aloud is not a typical daily classroom practice. We should increase the number of opportunities children have to hear stories both at home and in schools so children can experience the many benefits of a rich and varied vocabulary.The Conversation

Margaret Kristin Merga, Senior Lecturer in Education, Edith Cowan University

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

3 ways that big data reveals what you really like to watch, read and listen to



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Generating new entertainment data.
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Anjana Susarla, Michigan State University

Anyone who’s watched “Bridget Jones’s Diary” knows one of her New Year’s resolutions is “Not go out every night but stay in and read books and listen to classical music.”

The reality, however, is substantially different. What people actually do in their leisure time often doesn’t match with what they say they’ll do.

Economists have termed this phenomenon “hyperbolic discounting.” In a famous study titled “Paying Not to Go to the Gym,” a couple of economists found that, when people were offered the choice between a pay-per-visit contract and a monthly fee, they were more likely to choose the monthly fee and actually ended up paying more per visit. That’s because they overestimated their motivation to work out.

Hyperbolic discounting is just one challenge of operating in a creative industry. Tastes are highly subjective, and the elements of plot and narrative that make one movie a tremendous hit could easily make another a critical and commercial failure.

For decades, advertisers and marketers struggled to predict the consumption of leisure products such as movies and books. It’s equally challenging to decide the timing. Which weekend should a studio release a new movie? When a publisher releases a hard copy of a book, how do they decide when to release the e-book version?

Today, big data offers new visibility into how people experience entertainment. As a researcher who studies the impact of artificial intelligence and social media, there are three forces that stand out to me as especially powerful in predicting human behavior.

1. Economics of the long tail

The internet makes it possible to distribute entertainment products that are less popular than mainstream successes. Streaming shows can acquire a larger audience than what is economically feasible for distribution through prime-time television. This economic phenomenon is referred to as the long tail effect,

Since streaming media companies such as Netflix do not have to pay to distribute content in movie theaters, they can produce more shows that cater to niche audiences. Netflix used data from their individual customers’ viewing habits to decide to back “House of Cards,” which was rejected by television networks. Netflix data showed that there was a fan base for movies directed by Fincher and movies starring Spacey, and that a large number of customers had rented DVDs of the original BBC series.

2. Social influence in the era of artificial intelligence

With social media, people can share what they are watching with their friends, making otherwise independent entertainment experiences become more social.

By mining data from social sites like Twitter and Instagram, companies can track in real time what moviegoers think about a given movie, show or song. Movie studios can use a treasure trove of digital data to decide how to promote shows and release dates for movies. For instance, the volume of Google searches of a film’s trailer during the month before its premiere is a leading predictor of Oscar winners as well as box office revenue. Movie studios can combine historical data about movie release dates and box office performance with search trends to predict ideal release dates for new movies.

Mining social media data also helps companies to identify negative sentiment before it spirals into a crisis. A single tweet from an unhappy influential customer can go viral, shaping public opinion.

In a study I conducted with Yong Tan of the University of Washington and Cath Oh from Georgia State University, we showed how such social influence determines not only which YouTube videos become more popular, but also that videos shared by influential users become even more widely viewed.

One study shows that when studios pay attention to social media buzz before a movie’s release, the difference between the predicted revenue and the actual revenue, known as the forecast error, reduced by 31 percent.

3. Consumption analytics

Big data provides better visibility into what books and shows people actually spend their time enjoying.

Are you going to finish that?
diego matteo muzzini/shutterstock.com

The mathematician Jordan Ellenberg pioneered the use of the Hawking index, a measure of the average page number of the five most highlighted passages in a Kindle book as a proportion of that book’s total length. The Hawking index shows when people give up on a book. If a 250-page book’s average Kindle highlight appears on page 250, that would give it a Hawking index of 100 percent.

The theory gets its name from Stephen Hawking’s “A Brief History in Time.” While this book still sells millions of copies a year, it is also seldom read, with a dismal Hawking index of 6.6 percent.

When a company such as Amazon decides which books to recommend to potential readers or which Prime shows to produce, they look at detailed digital traces of which plot points engaged audiences and which did not. This might help them to promote an upcoming release or to make better recommendations to individual users.

What’s more, new types of artificial intelligence can investigate what makes people engage with creative content. For instance, a company named Epagogix pioneered an approach using a neural network – an artificial intelligence tool that looks for patterns in very large amounts of data – on a set of screenplays rated by experts in the entertainment industry. The computer could then predict the financial success of a movie. According to some reports, such artificial intelligence can predict up to 75 percent of films’ actual opening grosses.

Given new big data insights like these, entertainment companies may soon know what exactly Bridget Jones would like to do with her leisure time better than Bridget herself does.The Conversation

Anjana Susarla, Associate Professor of Information Systems, Michigan State University

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

How to make reading fun — and part of life beyond the school room



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A Nal’ibali World Read Aloud Day in Soweto, South Africa.
Daniel Born

Peter Rule, Stellenbosch University and Zelda Barends, Stellenbosch University

The love of reading is one of the greatest gifts an adult can give to a child. Pragmatically, reading proficiently helps with school work. But it also widens children’s horizons. It can help readers to understand their own world better, and to explore other worlds.

Parents often see reading as “school business” – something that teachers are responsible for. But there’s a lot of research that shows the value of reading at home and in the community. Children who read at home with parents or caregivers have an educational advantage that lasts their whole lives. In fact, reading to children helps them develop the language and literacy skills they need to begin formal literacy instruction.

Parents, as their children’s first and most important teachers, can make reading fun and inspire a lifelong love of reading. If parents themselves cannot read, others such as older siblings, friends and relatives can play this role.

Here, based on our own research studies about reading and drawing from the work being done by organisations dedicated to literacy, are some ideas to get kids reading for fun.

Reading as play

Children can have fun with reading even before they can read themselves. Reading feeds their fertile imaginations and they do the rest. In one of our research studies, pre-schooler Shafeek* spontaneously dressed up and acted out a story that his mother had read to him. Ashwariya* played “school” by “reading” a story to her toys. Again, she could not yet read but used the pictures and her memory for her game.

These examples show that reading can be made fun by linking it to play – through acting out, drawing pictures, dressing up, creating objects, or many other creative activities. Sometimes children do this on their own. But parents and teachers can also provide guided play activities.

Melanie Lippert, Nal’ibali FUNda Leader, at the festival.

Reading routines are important at home. This could take the form of “bedtime story”, reading prayers or verses from a sacred book, or regular weekend reading. Young children often love to hear the same story again and again. This is important for their emergent literacy as they learn how stories work, and how to “read” backwards and forwards.

Children enjoy singing songs and rhymes and this is a fun activity for reading development too. These allow children to play with words and sounds which is the first step in developing their phonological awareness, an integral skill to develop for reading.

Family reading

Children can have fun by joining in family reading activities. This could mean looking at advertisements and, even if they cannot yet read, identifying pictures of items. It could mean turning the pages of newspapers or magazines for a parent and learning how to hold a book the right way up. Family photo albums are also great for learning to “read” pictures and hear family stories. Children learn to respect and handle books by seeing their caregivers do so.

Above all, caregivers should read to their children as an activity that’s designed to make meaning with a focus on understanding.

One of the weaknesses of teaching reading at South African schools, for instance, is that it often does not focus on comprehension. Parents can make reading meaningful getting children to preview a text (look at the title, cover and pictures before they read) and guess what it will be about.

They can also ask questions as they read (“Why did she/he do that? Do you think it was the right thing? What do you think will happen next?”), link the story to children’s lives and experiences, and get them to make up their own endings.

Some older children enjoy keeping a “reading diary” of books they have read with their impressions. Reading can also be a prompt for writing their own stories. Creating and writing for a school newspaper or magazine can be great fun and can be adapted to suit the technology available in the school.

Reading their own texts

Reading is difficult but it can be made more accessible if children are presented with opportunities to develop their own texts to read. An example of this could be to write a story with the child and have them read it themselves. Such a text would consist of vocabulary familiar to the child and it would scaffold comprehension of reading. If children are involved in developing their own texts for reading, it becomes a personal and authentic experience based on their own interests and needs. Producing their own texts also gives children a sense of ownership that helps them to take responsibility for the process.

Finding the right stuff

While there is no shortage of children’s books in English, finding suitable reading material in African languages and about African contexts can be a problem.

Many public libraries stock such books. Nalibali has a great range of stories in South African languages. The Family Literacy Project has developed many wonderful ideas for developing reading, including box libraries, reading clubs and Umzali Nengane (Parent and Child) journals.

Paulo Freire, the great Brazilian educator, talked about “reading the word in order to read the world”. He showed how reading critically and creatively can help people change their lives and create a better world. Something so important should not be left to teachers alone.

*Not their real names.The Conversation

Peter Rule, Associate Professor, Centre for Higher and Adult Education, Stellenbosch University and Zelda Barends, Lecturer, Stellenbosch University

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.