Using Free Time to Read a Book for Pleasure
On the long-running radio program “A Prairie Home Companion”, many skits took place in a fictional Minnesotan small town, Lake Wobegon, “where all the women are strong, all the men are good-looking, and all the children are above average.” In the affluent Washington, DC metro area, many of us can relate. Test scores at all levels are significantly higher than the national average in many of our schools. Our schools are competitive, and many of our children are expected to excel in school and aspire to get into good colleges and make good livings. During their limited free time, there are so many options, with screen time vying for number one. If you suggest that your child read a book, they may look at you like you’re from Mars.
December break is approaching, with two weeks off. This is a great time to introduce reading for pleasure to every age group. Out of seventeen 24-hour days, the challenge is to plug 1/2 hour of reading time into every day. This works best when multiple family members read together (not necessarily the same book). So, before winter break begins, discuss what kind of reading will be fun and interesting – graphic novels, biographies, magic, dystopian future, fantasy, science fiction, historical fiction, history, or science? Then go to a bookstore or library and let your child pick out several books that look interesting. Discuss which time of day will be best for reading and begin. Reading is also an excellent activity while traveling, and recorded books are fun, too.
Benefits of Reading
Building a Skill with Practice
Like basketball or any other skill, reading comprehension and fluency improve with practice. Research has shown that you do not need to read “high quality” literature for this to happen. Reading anything on a regular basis improves skills.
Improved Comprehension and Fluency Translate into Better Grades
This is because reading is a part of every school subject. Even math involves reading when doing word problems. Research has shown that students who regularly read for pleasure excel in school and receive higher grades than those who do not. [The Impact of Pleasure Reading on Academic Success]
Boost Grammar, Spelling, Vocabulary, and Writing Skills
By reading regularly, you can see how words are spelled, how sentences and paragraphs work grammatically, and how good writing looks. Your vocabulary improves by learning new words in context. Children and adults who read a lot become good writers.
Learn New Things
These days, we can learn anything we want to know with Alexa and Google. Why not delve deeper with books, and become an expert in a subject?
When you can relate to characters in a book, you can learn to appreciate different points of view, world outlooks, and personalities. Novels generally have much more character development than TV shows and movies.
Develop your Imagination
While reading books, we can learn to visualize characters and plots. By using our imaginations this way instead of watching a movie, our imaginations are more developed for being creative in our future lives through work and leisure. It is fun to read a book (such as the classic Matilda by Roald Dahl, which has recently been made into the movie Matilda the Musical – available on Netflix and in theatres Dec. 25th) and then watch the movie. You can compare how you pictured the characters and scenes to how they are depicted in the movie.
If you can influence your children to pick out enticing books to read while they have extra time this month, they may continue with a new love for reading. Even when school begins again in January, it is not so hard to find a half hour per day to read for pleasure – especially if this is something you look forward to in your free time.
By Cheryl Gedzelman, President, Tutoring For Success, Inc.