Why is reading important?
Apart from being a great hobby and fun activity, reading can help children improve in many areas of their lives through developing key transferrable skills. Reading in their native language as well as English can bring a whole range of benefits. In order to engage the whole class, the students must understand the benefits themselves.
Ask the students in your class, ‘Why is reading important?’ and create a mind map of ideas. You may also wish to use some of the points below to start the conversation. Having a common idea which everyone agrees on, can really help build motivation and engagement in the classroom.
Reading improves language skills
Regular reading develops children’s linguistic skills – it helps them to learn good sentence structure, grammar, vocabulary and improves spelling both in their own language and in English too! Reading aloud also strengthens knowledge around phonics and in turn improves pronunciation and articulation.
Reading improves memory
It can also help to develop knowledge of phonics and vocabulary recall as well as improving focus and concentration – all necessary skills when learning.
Reading cultivates curiosity
Books help children’s imaginations to grow and encourage them to be more open-minded. They help us to learn about other cultures and encourage us to think more creatively. Through subtle messages, reading builds an awareness of the world in which we live and enables children to form their own opinions and ask questions.
Reading creates empathy
Stories help to develop children’s emotional intelligence and empathy towards others. Through exploring topics and characters, they can learn about real world situations and think about how they would feel in somebody else’s shoes. It encourages respect for others’ feelings as well as other cultures.
Reading reduces stress
Reading is a great way to calm the mind and it can help us to relax and destress. Children can learn to use reading as a helpful tool in their day-to-day lives.
Reading develops key life skills
Children develop their confidence, communication, resilience, patience, social skills and connect with the wider world, culture and communities.
All of these benefits just through just reading a book?
But how do we motivate our young learners (even our most reluctant readers) to develop a passion for reading?
It must be fun, purposeful and relevant
For example, take the Disney Kids Readers. They are adaptations of well-known fairy-tales and movies which help students to immediately engage with the content, since it is likely they already have some knowledge of the story in their own language. This helps to support them in their reading and can motivate them to pick up a book.
Reading well-known adaptations can remove barriers to reading, support and encourage students’ imagination, and spark a real interest. They give purpose and relevance to the students as most students have watched a Disney movie at some point in their lives and most students have a favorite Disney movie or character.
Let your young learners choose
There are plenty of Disney Kids Readers to choose from – if the students can choose their own reader, they are likely to be more motivated and focused. Choice gives the students power and makes it more relevant to them. Ask your students to choose their favorite Disney movie and have a vote as a class. Get to know your students and find out what they are interested in and base your book choice around this.
To motivate students, they must know that they are making progress. Reward students for their achievements – for example, create a vocabulary wall or a class book chart and give rewards like a sticker or a postcard to take home.
Here are five practical, fun ideas on how to further motivate your learners and engage them in reading both in and outside the classroom!
1. Make a bookmark
Making a bookmark is a fun way to get children into the habit of reading more regularly. If they have their own bookmark, then they are more likely to want to pick up a book and read! In the activity, the children can make their own bookmark based on their favorite book as well as draw a picture of their favorite scene. There’s space for them to write about their favorite character too and any new words that they have learned. The bookmark then becomes not only a way to find your page, but it can also help children engage in conversations about their reading in English and make them feel like they are making progress!
2. Create a mind map
A mind map is an activity that helps children to understand and analyze what is happening in the book they have just read. It is a great way to show their understanding of the story in a clear way. It could also be used for doing a short presentation on the book or for helping to write a short paragraph about it.
3. Write your own short story
This activity is creative and asks the children to choose their favorite reader. They then use their imagination to write a short story about what happens next. They can place characters in a completely different story of their own and send them off on a new, exciting adventure or decide what happens next in the original story. Writing stories like this helps young people to explore their ideas, express their creativity and reinforce sentence structure, vocabulary and grammar at the same time!
Create a reading passport
Motivate children by giving them clear and achievable goals. Asking them to fill in a reading passport as they read a new book is a fun way to encourage reading. Each book allows each child to enter a different world and once they have visited each place, they complete a new page in the passport and receive a stamp. You could even make this a class competition to see who can fill in the passport pages the quickest!
Create a character profile
Ask the children to choose their favorite character and produce a movie poster on that person. Ask the students to draw a picture and write key details about the character such as name, age and physical appearance and interests. This activity is motivating for the students as seeing their favorite character in a different context can be entertaining and engaging!