Learning to Read – Growing Your Child’s Comfort Zone

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Like everyone else, children have circles of preferences, which they like to exist within. As adults, our comfort zone makes us feel at ease and in charge of what’s going on around us, reducing anxiety and stress.

Children who just beginning to experience life – and gain a measure of control over it – are even more likely to stick within their comfort zone. This is often why younger children like reading the same book over and over, or watching the same show again and again. There is something comforting in knowing what will happen for a child who does not yet have the perception to see their bigger life picture.

While as adults, we are encouraged to “break out” of our comfort zone, children often need constant nudges to try new foods, experience new places. The advantage is of course, to build a rich experience while at the same time taking your life ability to the next level.

At a life level, this seems complex. But when applied to reading, we can see some of the proposed benefits.

Comfort in Fluency

Young readers like to stick to books they have read before perhaps reading with fluency. However how much of this is memorized and how much is actually being read can only be measured when the child tries reading something that he or she has not read before.

Comfort in Subject

Similarly, book subjects are often tailored for children: fictional characters, talking animals etc., with a goal to capture interest. By including non-fiction content early in a young reader’s life we can try to expand their interests at an early. Not all readers like fiction, and some may be stimulated into active reading by more variety in content.

Comfort in Comprehension

Levels of reading are often determined by comprehension, and yet contrarily we often see the most active readers have the best vocabulary and are way ahead of their reading levels. By restricting a child to a reading level, we are keeping them in the comfort zone of comprehension. Not understanding what they read is an excellent way to promote discussion and can lead to a broader awareness.

There are many discussions on how to nudge your child out of their comfort zones. Consider how some of these could apply to your child’s reading goals and you may come up with news ways to get your child reading better.

Say it with me… Reading Aloud is Great for Kids!

Reading Aloud

When you are good at reading, it is easy enough to be called on in class to read aloud. As a student who enjoyed books and reading, this was never a cringe-worthy moment for me.

However, as a student who joined late into learning a new language, I experienced the other side of the coin. Reading aloud in a language I was still learning, with a group that was far ahead was stressful and embarrassing.

As an adult, while reading aloud to my young daughter I’ve noticed the following benefits. Several of these are, I think, applicable in classroom reading as well:

  • Reading Aloud helps you quickly gauge your reading fluency. How fast you read, and whether you pause at the right places, cues the listener into both your reading and comprehension level at the same time.
  • Reading Aloud makes you conscious of pronunciation. Words that make you hesitate or slow you down (even as an adult!) are because of the uncertainty in pronunciation. Just as I used to look up the meaning of a word, I also find myself looking up correct pronunciation these days.
  • Reading Aloud ensures you don’t skip words or meanings. Sometimes when we read, we get the gist without taking in all the words. Reading aloud slows the reading process down and ensures you are reading complete sentences, thereby internalizing sentence construction and story structure.
  • Grammar and punctuation errors are often more obvious to the ear than the eye. When I worked as a copywriter and proofreader, I would regularly read aloud some paragraphs to check if they “sounded” right.
  • Reading Aloud can expand a child’s vocabulary. Words that are commonly used in speech can often be found in books. Young children exposed to these “big words” which they cannot read, helps raise comprehension and add new words to their vocabulary.
  • Reading Aloud tends to hold your focus deeply on the text. By physically vocalizing each word, ensuring right pause and pronunciation, the whole of your attention is on the reading material. This is an excellent way to train mental concentration, particularly, for young readers.

I was probably in the 5th grade before I was able to comparatively reflect on my lack of reading confidence in one class for the same task in the other. And I found my solution as well. Practice. When we were reading aloud in class, I would start counting the number of students to my turn, and then count the paragraph I would have to read aloud, and practiced silently till it was my turn.

And my teacher noticed… “VERY good, Vidya! Next.” Amazing what a small, yet timely praise could serve to encourage a student.

In hindsight, it also solidified my confidence to read and write in a new language.

A Mother’s Little Secrets To Bringing Up a Happy Reader

William Somerset Maugham once said, “To acquire the habit of reading is to construct for yourself a refuge from almost all the miseries of life.”

At various trying periods in my life I have found books to be a cushiony refuge; with me often emerging hours (or days) later refreshed, rejuvenated and ready to jump back into life.

As an adult and a mother of a precocious 4-year-old, I hope to be able to pass on my love of reading to my daughter, in the firmest belief that it will serve her lifelong.

Here are a few of my secrets which I think will make her an avid Reader:

I Read So She Reads. Children learn through imitation, and these days in addition to wearing my clothes and shoes and pretending to be me, my daughter also stacks her books next to my bedside table and “pretends” to read herself after I’ve read her the story.

Read Aloud Something Out of Her League. In addition to reading my daughter’s book to her, I also sometimes read my book aloud just so she can listen. She’s very curious about what I’m reading, and while she barely gets the gist, (and I sometimes have to skip sentences!) she loves listening to the nuances of conversation, and the emphasis and pauses I give while reading. I’ve noticed that it seems to soothe her and she often is listening even more attentively than when I read her books for the 68th time.

Books Are Also “Play”. When my daughter is looking for toys to take to grandma’s house, I often suggest she take a book as well. If she wants to play, reading is sometimes one of the choices. This isn’t to mean I try to force her to choose reading over other activities. What I am trying to do is group ‘reading and books’ along with ‘toys and fun’. My approach is not “let’s do something quiet like reading”, but more of “You’re bored? Shall we read something?”. Equating reading to toys, games and TV, communicates to her that reading can provide as much entertainment as the other activities.

Be Generous with the Little Extras. A snack, a reading nook, a cosy blanket. It all makes reading a little more appealing by association. My daughter likes building a little “fort” out of pillows and blankets and storing her books and snacks inside. I’m delighted.

Let’s Go to Your Library! Going to the library is as fun to my daughter as going anywhere else. It could be because it is “Her” library, where we only go for her books, (we buy on our Kindles) so the experience revolves entirely around her. No doubt that makes the trip very special.