Parental influence and access to books at home linked to high literacy rates among children
Making a strong case for parents and caregivers to encourage reading at home, the Irish Times recently highlighted the country’s results in the “PIRLS International Results in Reading,” and attributed the 10th place ranking to home support.
The findings were prepared as part of the recent examination of literacy standards worldwide, which tested fourth-class pupils in more than 50 countries. Data from the assessment links children’s higher reading achievement to parents who like reading themselves and engage in literacy activities with their children.
In Ireland, 78 per cent of parents reported that they had more than 25 children’s books at home compared to an international average of 59 per cent.
The proportion of homes with more than 100 children’s books (33 per cent) and with a dedicated study area/internet space (70 per cent) is also higher in Ireland than on average.
Family income also has a powerful influence on students’ achievement in reading and mathematics, since availability of reading material in the home is strongly related to achievement in mathematics and science.
In the recent international test, Irish children with strong back-up resources – such as the wider availability of books, had a reading test score significantly above the national average. The Irish National Teachers’ Organisation said the findings showed the need to encourage parents to make literacy and numeracy priorities at home.
The data, sends a strong message to parents and caregivers globally to support reading at home. Role model a love for or at least the willingness to read (in any language), and have a variety of books available. Visit the library, engage in learning activities and learn new things together.
Getting the balance right – how involved is good for your child?
Sometimes figuring out just the right balance of parental involvement in a child’s education can be a real struggle, since much of the decision may be based on the individual’s character, age and stage. Opinions from experts can differ drastically too. Educational writer, John Roseman warns that taking too active a role in a child’s academic life could lead parents to inadvertently stifling their children’s academic progress. Meanwhile, Daniel Wong of Singapore Scene, advises that withdrawing from an active role in a child’s education too much can have the same result.
Finding the Reading Moments
Car trips, errands, and waits in checkout lines and the doctor's office are all opportunities for reading. Keep books or magazines in your car or backpack to pull out whenever you're going to be in one place for a while. Even if you can't finish a book, read a few pages or discuss some of the pictures. Encourage older kids to bring favorite books and magazines along wherever you go.
Other reading moments to take advantage of throughout the day:
- in the morning, before breakfast or getting dressed
- after dinner, when kids are relaxed
- bath time (with plastic, waterproof books)
Reading opportunities are everywhere you go. Read signs aloud while you're driving. Ask your preschooler to "read" pictures on boxes at the store and tell you about them. And have older kids tell you what's on the shopping list.
Even routine tasks around the house, like cooking, can provide reading moments. With younger kids, read recipes aloud; ask older kids to help by telling you how much flour to measure. Give your child a catalog to read while you look at the mail. Ask relatives to send your child letters or e-mail and read them together.
Even when you're trying to get things done, you can encourage reading. If your child complains of boredom when you're busy, for instance, ask him or her to read aloud from a favorite book to you while you work. Younger kids can tell you about the pictures in their favorite books.
And make sure kids get some time to spend quietly with books, even if it means bypassing or cutting back on other activities, like time in front of the TV or playing video games.
Most important, be a reader yourself. Kids who see their parents reading are likely to join them and become readers, too!
By: Laura L. Bailet, PhD
For the many families who don’t speak English at home, story-telling can happen in the home language and be equally enriching for students. Parents are encouraged to share their own cultural stories, and proudly pass on this heritage. Other family members or older siblings may also get into family reading and story telling.
For the times when children or parents want to hear English stories, a variety of Websites offer narrated stories online:
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