A recently penned article in the Times Educational Supplement said that pupils who can’t read well won’t succeed – in any subject.
It seems like a dramatic statement, but it’s true. Literacy is the key to helping children learn. From the very first picture book thumbed through by a babies’ sticky hands down to the Russian novel assigned for a GCSE, reading lays the foundation for every other subject.
It’s especially true for those parents that want to guide their children through the 11+, or Transfer Test, as it’s otherwise known.
I am often approached by parents with children in years 3 or 4 and asked what the best thing they can do is to gently start preparing their children for the exam, taken in year 5.
My answer is always the same: by far the single most important thing they can do is to encourage their children to read.
1. Walking dictionaries
Reading, and more importantly, reading widely, expands children’s vocabulary on a daily basis. Not just that, but it gives them context to that vocabulary in a much easier way to understand than an explanation of a word ever could.
Much of the preparation for the 11+ involves learning vocabulary, as this is an integral part of the test. Synonyms and antonyms, word definitions and clozes are all part of the test.
When I say read widely, I mean food labels, instruction manuals, directions, non-fiction books, fiction books of all genres, comic books, magazines, newspapers, and recipes. Even this is by no means an exhaustive list.
All this reading will create layers of knowledge in your child’s memory so that, even if they think they don’t recognize a word in the test, they will have an instinct for its meaning.
2. The mind’s eye
Reading fires the imagination, and imagination is what gives children problem-solving ability. Creativity Much of the 11+ is focused on problem-solving!
3. Skills for life
Working out print is only one third of what reading is about. Reading encourages listening and understanding – vital skills to have for the classroom.
Reading also gives children fundamental communication skills that will stand them in good stead for the future. Reading enhances a child’s use of language as they absorb what they read, they learn how to structure sentences and how to use words and language effectively.
It also encourages empathy, when we read a story about someone different to us we learn that our world view is not the only one. We identify with the characters in the story.
4. Practice makes perfect.
The more they read, the better they will get at it. This is especially true of younger children as they learn to read, but just as relevant to older children. There is much research to support the fact that the more a child reads; the better they perform at school.
5. Reading or being read to?
Being read to is just as important. Not only does it help foster positive relationships among the family, but children absorb just as much, if not more, being read to than reading for themselves. It deepens their understanding of a word and helps in their comprehension. It also helps engage them into reading. Indeed former head of Eton College, Tony Little, suggests that parents should continue to read even to teenagers.
6. The information world
In the digital age children have access to information like never before. Not all of it good, however. Children will be better placed to navigate the plethora of information available on the internet and make sound judgments as to its validity, thanks to heightened comprehension through reading.
7. The world as an oyster
Reading opens up new worlds to children. There is no end to the worlds that children can travel to through reading. Increased understanding of the world around them, about different cultures and increased general knowledge are all benefits of reading.
For more information on how to start preparing for the 11+ head over to our blog page here, or better still give us a call on 01494 773300.