Reading skills are fundamental requirements for English success. In this article, we explain why they matter and how to develop them.
Do you worry that you don’t read enough? Are you struggling to get yourself motivated to read? In this article, we going to discuss the reading skills for Year 7 & 8 students you need to have and how to help develop them.
In the last article, we discussed the importance of knowledge to your success as an English student. Remember, your knowledge will grow as you progress through high school.
Because as you read – and read widely and consistently – you will continue to accrue and refine your knowledge.
You’ll notice that these Outcomes build upon what we were discussing in Part 1 of this guide.
Well, the parents that are reading this article need to support and help develop their child’s reading skills, too.
So, whether you are a Year 7 or 8 student or the parent of one, we’re going to look at how to develop reading skills.
Let’s take a look at some of the things we’ve learned from helping students over the last 19 years.
While English students will engage with film and other text types, the majority of the texts they study will be written texts.
In addition, all of the assessment tasks you undertake will require some form of writing. Even oral presentations, multimedia presentations, and websites that students will produce will require you to write scripts, speeches, or web content.
Reading is the best way for you to develop your written skills alongside regular writing practice.
Reading exposes readers to quite a few different things:
Exposure to these things helps readers develop their English skills
Exposure to new words will expand your vocabulary and enable you to further develop your ability to infer meaning.
Exposure to new ideas allows readers to reevaluate their understanding of the world and to think critically about various issues.
Experiencing new perspectives offers readers the opportunity for students to think about issues outside of their own subjective experience.
It’s also how readers learn to write with more clarity and insight.
As we read how others share their ideas, we try to adopt the forms and expressions that we find effective for communication. You should try and incorporate the words, structures, and styles you encounter in your wide reading into your own writing.
This process of learning through imitation is a crucial part of a child’s development.
Do you have trouble sitting down to read? You’re not alone. Today, there are many distractions that get in the way of reading:
So, how do you put reading ahead of these?
It’s about having and setting the right expectations.
What does this mean?
Many children hit the end of primary school and feel that they have met the expectations of their parents by learning to read independently.
Once children, especially teenagers, hit that milestone they feel that it is no longer required of them to read regularly.
This is quite common, but also central to children ceasing to read. Parents reading to children is a great way to maintain the expectations of reading.
Let’s see what this involves.
You need to reassert the expectation that your child should be reading. Let’s look at some of the strategies that we’ve found effective for the thousands of students we’ve helped.
As children move through primary and get more and more independence, parents often stop reading to and with their children.
Reading to your children, even when they are teenagers is a wonderful and important opportunity to bond. It provides shared one-on-one time, something that the stresses and expectations of modern life often steal from us.
Having a narrative read to you allows you to immerse yourself in it. The storyteller gets to conjure up the voices of characters and their pace and tone sets up the action.
Reading to a child also affords them the opportunity to ask questions about things they don’t understand in the narrative – like advanced concepts or new words. Having these things explained to them will help them continue to grow and learn.
You must remember that as they become more accomplished readers, their texts will become more difficult with harder vocabulary and more advanced concepts and ideas that they will need help with!
You should read to your children until they ask you to stop.
Once your child states that they don’t want you reading aloud to them anymore, read with them.
What does this mean?
Read the same book they are reading.
Read when they read.
Discuss what you have read together:
While it is important that you challenge your child with texts, you must let them read what they want.
Children will often want to reread texts. This is perfectly fine. Reading a book again will offer readers new and deeper insights into texts.
If they want to find new texts, let them follow their interests!
If they like playing fantasy or science fiction games, suggest reading fantasy series. If they like history, choose to read historical fiction together.
You should ask your child what their friends are reading. If they want to read that, too, you should get those books. This will give them a larger circle to discuss the books with.
Children often spend a large amount of time on their devices: chatting with friends; playing games; watching YouTube, or streaming films and series. While it is important that kids stay connected with their mates and have the opportunity for recreation, parents need to limit this.
If you haven’t already, you should set time limits on access to devices, including laptops and computers. Limit their non-school work screen time in the afternoons and definitely on weekends.
Research shows that having devices in the bedroom is unhealthy for all humans – this means for parents as well as children!
The light from phones, tablets, and laptops disrupts our circadian rhythms leading to poor sleep quality and disrupted sleep. This has a detrimental effect on the ability of people, especially children, to learn and retain information.
Instead of letting them use devices in bed, encourage them to read or read with them.
By the time students reach high school, they have an ever increasing list of commitments:
Because of this, reading for pleasure is, unfortunately, often one of the first activities to neglected.
To help your child, you should try and ease some of their household commitments or extra-curricular commitments so they have time to read. You should also try and provide the facilities for them to read.
Put a bookcase in the house, or even better in their room. Keep it stocked with things they like to read. Give them the opportunity and space to read.
We often forget that children learn from adults through imitation. But the truth is that that is how children learn most things, by watching and imitating the adults in their life – parents, teachers, grandparents, family friends.
This puts the onus on you!
Your children must see you reading.
If you want them to use devices less, you need to set the example and put your device away. Make sure you adhere to any rules you set about devices in the bedroom!
You need to ensure that you find the time in your schedule so that you can read with them and to them.
If you want to keep them reading, you need to make sure that you all have time together to discuss what they are reading.
Year 7 and 8 students should read a balance of what interests them and what the curriculum requires.
Parents must stay in contact with your child’s school English teacher and see what they need to be reading for school.
And you, as a student, should be pro-active and see what your teacher suggests you should read
In Matrix Year 7 and 8 courses, students are exposed to a wide variety of texts from Shakespeare to fantasy. You should ensure that your child reads non-fiction as well as fiction. This doesn’t mean, that they need to read complex adult non-fiction texts (although if they can and want to, that’s great!) but they should be reading articles from newspapers and magazines.
If it is possible for you to have copies of magazines and newspapers around the house that you can read together, that will be great. But even sharing online articles about things from science and tech to politics and current affairs with them, will encourage them to read and read widely.
If you’re looking for books to suggest for your child, you can find a list in this Year 7 & 8 recommended reading list.
Also, keep on eye on the Matrix blog, we try to publish regular reviews and reading lists throughout the year.
Often, it is not as simple as picking up a book and reading. Things get in the way, sometimes the environment is prone to interruptions and distractions, other times it is just too noisy.
So, how can you create a good reading environment?
A quiet and tranquil environment is always ideal for reading, but it isn’t always feasible.
At home, if there is space, having a small area that is quiet and comfortable will give you an opportunity to read.
If you don’t have this, try to take advantage of the facilities that your community have. Local libraries, cafes, and even parks and open spaces can provide good environments for reading.
You should encourage your child to make use of transit time for reading. Do they have a commute to and from school? Encourage them to read on the bus rather than scrolling social media or staring out a window.
Reading in bed is an excellent habit, and picking up a book at lunchtime on weekends is a great way to relax
Students often develop poor reading habits, tending to skim rather than read in detail. They are not alone, by any means. Rather, the sheer amount of texts and articles that we encounter online can be overwhelming.
Recent research shows that in most communities skim reading is becoming more and more the norm.
Readers are often overwhelmed by texts with complex and difficult ideas and often resort to skim reading, rather than digesting with texts.
A cause of this is the sheer volume of texts. As readers, we often become lazy and would rather read something easy and pleasing than something challenging. It is important that you stick with the texts you start.
The strategies we’ve discussed, like families reading together, will help encourage this. So, will taking the time to discuss these harder as a family.
Don’t read faster than you’re comfortable with.
You shouldn’t read at a speed where you don’t retain plot information or character names.
Similarly, parents, you must not comment on your child’s reading speed. This will have a negative impact on their confidence and imply that they should skim read rather than read in depth.
If you’re a parent and want to encourage your child:
This will give you the opportunity to support and encourage them.
Texts can often by deceptively challenging, it is part of your role as a parent to help them understand the texts and ideas they encounter.
This last section is more for parents than students. But, if you are a student and struggle with understanding your text, you should read through this section and enlist your parent’s help!
We’ve discussed some strategies for encouraging your child to read and get a passion for reading. But how do you help a child understand a text?
Some of the strategies we’ve discussed will help with this. Reading to your child and reading together will provide the opportunity for you to discuss what you’re reading and explain the aspects your child doesn’t understand.
However, that’s not always feasible. At some point, your child may encounter ideas that you are not familiar or outside of your field of expertise. This is normal, but you need to provide a framework for teaching them to help themselves when you cannot.
Here are some strategies to employ.
Leading by example is the best way to encourage your child to learn. If your child sees you admit that you don’t know something, but you are willing to acquire the knowledge, this a priceless experience for them.
You are teaching them something about what reading encourages – acquiring new knowledge – and demonstrating that knowledge acquisition never ceases.
So how do you learn together? Let’s take a look:
If you want to understand your texts better, keep a reading journal.
If you’re a parent, encourage your child to keep a reading journal.
This is an exercise many children do at school. But like the expectations of reading, kids often don’t think they need to do it for every book they read.
Journaling and diary keeping is becoming a lost art with the spread of social media. In the past, keeping a diary was an opportunity for an individual to contemplate their day to day experiences and also record their thoughts about the texts that they’d read.
Reading journals are an invaluable way to record and monitor how your understanding of a text develops.
Get your child a diary, ask them to keep notes of what they are reading. After the session when they read, or perhaps once or twice a week, ask them to note down their ideas about the book they are reading.
Here are some things you write about in a reading journal:
If you’re a parent, make sure that you take the time to read what they write. You can then discuss the book with them. More importantly, you are in a position to help them with the things that they do not understand.
If you’re keeping a reading journal, make sure you take the time to revisit it as you progress through the book and once you’ve finished the book.
Summarising texts after they’ve finished reading a text will help you retain knowledge about what you’ve read.
Parents should encourage their child to take the time to summarise the concerns of a text when they’ve finished it for pleasure.
Your notes don’t need to be extensive, but they should focus on what they enjoyed and what they failed to understand.
If students are reading texts for school, however, they should keep extensive notes. You should make note of:
If you are a parent, try and make the time to read through the notes that your child makes about the things that they read. This will show them that you are interested in their learning.
In addition, it will show you where they are struggling with or the sorts of concepts that they are having difficulty dealing with. You want your child to be comfortable discussing the gaps in their knowledge and the concepts that they struggle with.
If you are a student, you need to ask questions about the things you don’t understand. THis is nothing to be ashamed of and an essential part of learning.
A person who makes the same mistake continuously is a person that hasn’t asked questions!
Parents, you need to teach your child to ask questions!
The vast majority of students are embarrassed when they don’t know something or struggle to understand things. The irony is that most of their peers will be in the same situation.
The reading journals and notes your child keeps will enable them to keep track of what they don’t know. You need to encourage your child to ask questions about these things.
Make sure that you make them comfortable and confident asking you questions. Never disparage your child about the things they don’t know. This will discourage them from asking questions.
Similarly, be honest when you don’t know something. Instead, admit that you don’t know it and research it together with your child.
Make sure that your child asks the questions at school. This is how they learn!
As Albert Einstein said, “The important thing is never to stop questioning!”
Comprehension is a fundamental and overlooked skill. In our next article, we discuss comprehension skills, their importance for High School students, and tell you how to develop them.
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