We all know how important it is for our children to learn to read. We buy endless ABC books, teach them phonics and force feed them the latest reading schemes but, in our attempts to instill knowledge into their pretty little heads, are we teaching them NOT to read for fun?
First, a look at ‘guilty parent syndrome’.
Is doing things for fun, bad?
My grandson loves watching Blaze and the Monster Machines on the TV. For those of you who haven’t had the pleasure of watching, Blaze is a monster truck who races round Axle City. Now, my grandson isn’t allowed to watch much television but his mum says she doesn’t feel so bad letting him watch Blaze battling it out with arch-rival, Crusher, because “it’s billed as the first TV show for preschoolers to comprehensively cover areas of science, technology, engineering and math.”
And cover them, it does. With story lines and songs about ‘inertia’, ‘potential energy’ and ‘buoyancy’, Blaze has certainly taught me some STEM concepts (not sure about my grandson).
But why do we feel better about our children watching something that pertains to be teaching them something rather than just watching something for fun?
Do you always watch programs that are teaching you something?
Do you screen reruns of Stephen Hawking Lectures or Open University broadcasts?
I thought not.
And if we can do something ‘just for fun’, why can’t our children?
Back to reading.
What’s the educational angle?
That was the question someone asked me about my latest book project.
Because how was I going to market my story without the promise that my young readers would learn something?
How many parents would buy a book for their child to read simply for fun?
Of course we could argue that every story teaches our children something. After all it’s been shown that people who read have a heightened sense of empathy – reading a story puts us in another person’s shoes. They teach us about other people’s feelings. But that isn’t what this person meant. They were concerned that without a the promise of learning something measurable my new book wouldn’t be saleable.
Parents might not want to restrict reading time like they do with television viewing but do they have time in their busy days for a book with no “educational value.” Will it bring on the same guilty parent syndrome?
And children are very perceptive. If you disapprove of the books your child chooses, they will know.
Are you teaching your child NOT to read for fun?
I read a great post recently from Scholastic titled “Raise Children Who Read for Fun.” The fourth part of their ten-step plan was ‘Let the choose what they read.’
When they are young that could mean reading “The Very Hungry Caterpillar” a thousand times. As they get older, it means don’t insist on sticking with the reading schemes they get sent home from school with. Get them a library card and let them pick books that interest them (even if they don’t interest you). A child who has an interest in the content of a book will be more likely to read for fun.
So, what do you think. Is all our worrying about children learning teaching your child NOT to read for fun? I’d love to hear your thoughts.
I’ve shared three little-known facts about myself; two are true, one is a lie. Can you tell which one is the bluff?
Head over and have a guess.
The answer will be revealed next week.