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The Importance of Recreational Reading in Education

For several years reading among young people has been on a decline, but with covid, there has come a sliver of a silver lining - children are reading more, ON PURPOSE. Post-covid there has been an 8% increase in recreational reading with children with over a quarter of children and teens saying reading has become more enjoyable for them. So why is this a good thing, specifically for education?

With covid having negatively impacted primary and secondary school education, a lot of children are behind and not only need covid-catchup to get them back up to their learning level, but need it to encourage them to get back into the learning mindset. A lot of kids are feeling very discouraged after being off school for so long and might have forgotten how fun education can be, so this renewed interest in reading is a great avenue to take advantage of.

Reading is arguably the most vital way of expanding vocabulary and understanding how to use it in different contexts. According to a paper called 'Research Evidence on Reading for Pleasure' by the Department of Education in 2012 states that reading enjoyment actually has more of an effect on the educational success of children than their family's socio-economic status, improves reading assessment scores, improves emotional and social skills, and improves general knowledge. However, the evidence states that young boys and children from families of a less privileged status are less likely to read than their counterparts.

So how do we encourage children to read, and encourage those who like reading to read more?

In some ways, kids are reading even when they don't realise it. Texting, social media, magazines, comic books and websites are all forms of recreational reading alongside books, and audiobooks count (although it is best to have a mix of audio-listening and traditional reading if your child is capable). However, fiction and non-fiction are where kids need to be absorbing a lot of their information when it comes to improving reading comprehension and mental health, so here are a few ways to encourage this:

1. Show Your Children YOU Find Reading Valuable

A lot of kids become readers because of home influences, so doing your own recreational reading and leaving books and magazines around the house will encourage your kids to emulate those same behaviours. Read a newspaper at breakfast, leave books on shelves and magazines on coffee tables!

2. Make the Library a Regular Place You Visit

Once libraries are opened up again, making the library a place your child enjoys is a wonderful way to open them up to a hoard of free books. Statistically, young people who visit their local library are twice as likely to read outside of school hours, so it is definitely worth the effort. If your child does well on a test or behaves particularly well rewarding them with a trip to the library will create a positive association between reading and behaviour, allows them to access a range of books for free that are otherwise expensive to attain and also teaches children to treat objects that aren't theirs with respect.

3. Buy Books Your Child Tends To Deviate Towards

Although there are of course outliers and reading is truly genderless, young boys usually deviate towards non-fiction and comic books, whilst girls tend to like fiction and magazines. If you notice your child tends to like a certain style of reading or genre of book, or perhaps if they like superhero movies or fashion, buy them something suited to that that involves recreational reading. Perhaps your child would enjoy a Guinness book of World Records, or a Teen Vogue magazine, a Marvel comic book or your more traditional novel! And make sure to include reading that challenges your child as especially with boys, they are more likely to recreationally read below their reading level.

It also happens that children are more encouraged to read books that they own themselves, so try setting up a bookshelf in your child's room and fill it with books they have chosen, even encourage them to go to the till and pay for the book themselves! It is all part of the experience.

4. Have Your Own Little Book Club!

Making reading a shared experience can make it more fun and contribute to your child's comprehensive and interpretive skills, so for fun consider having a weekly or bi-weekly book club where you both read a book, and then discuss at the end of the week or two weeks what the book was about, what you liked, disliked and what you thought the author was trying to say. Make sure to consistently ask your child their opinions as it will help develop their skills and make them feel like their opinions are valuable. Consider reading to your child if they are interested in it as being read to makes for great bonding time and engages their auditory cortex!

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