By Dr. Anand Jacob Verghese
Director & CEO of Hindustan Group of Institutions
Teaching your child to read early and well has multiple benefits and is the key to your child's academic future. The main reason is that reading is at the heart of all formal education.
Below are some of the many advantages of developing early reading ability in your child.
Reading helps to develop a young child's brain. In the first six years, children learn at a much faster pace than at any other time in their lives. Vital connections in the brain are made very early in life. At birth, a healthy baby is born with approximately 200 billion active brain cells or neurons.
Given the right kind of stimulation, each of these brain cells is capable of sprouting up to 20,000 different dendrites/branches and synapses/connections between them which store additional information. These connections, which are a direct result of stimulation the child receives through early experiences, form the basis of all future learning and intellectual ability.
As parents talk, sing and read to their children, existing links among brain cells are strengthened and new links are formed. At a younger age, learning is faster than it will be as the child grows older. When a child is taught to read, the process of learning has a profound influence on the entire functioning and development of the brain. You can play a critical early role by inculcating not only reading skills and ability but more importantly, instilling a lifelong love of learning and reading.
Reading opens the door to your child's early academic success, imparts a love of learning and leads to higher grades in every subject. Numerous studies have shown that strong oral language skills are the basis for literacy development. When children learn to read at an early age, they have the greater general knowledge, expand their vocabulary and become more fluent readers. They also have improved attention spans and better concentration. Early readers can recognize a larger number of words by sight, which enables them to learn more from and about their environment.
Their proficiency in reading enables them to comprehend more of what they are reading. They also become competent researchers, who are able to study effectively and extract relevant and necessary information from books, magazines, websites or other sources of information.
Only by mastering effective reading strategies can the child pick up the necessary knowledge and information, which will enable him or her to excel scholastically in the future. It is interesting to note that early readers not only become lifelong readers, but also lifelong learners. Longitudinal studies have shown that early readers continue to get higher grades than their peers through grade school.
A child who learns to read joyfully at home, at an early age, with a loving parent or caregiver, grows in self-confidence and independence. Reading promotes greater maturity, increases discipline and lays the basis for moral literacy. It sparks curiosity about people, places and things and also satisfies the child's curiosity by providing explanations of how things work. It exposes the child to a range of problem-solving techniques. In addition, early reading ignites the child's creativity and imagination.
What's more, a young child who is a reader is able to channel physical energy, when he or she chooses to sit down to read a book. This quiet time improves the relationship between parent and child or teacher and child, from an early stage.
Such a child is also at a distinct advantage over his or her peers. When a child starts learning to read as a baby or at the age of 2 or 3, there is no psychological pressure. The formal school system has yet to kick in, in most parts of the world. So, you can teach your child to read a little each day, in a leisurely manner. You can stop before he or she gets tired. You can foster a love of the game of reading in the child from the start. You and your child can take the time to treat reading as an exciting adventure, rather than a bothersome chore.
Compare this to the child who must try to learn in a crowded classroom, competing with his or her classmates for the personal attention of the teacher or teacher's assistant. Imagine the effect on the child's ego, on seeing others picking up this skill, while he or she lags behind.Which child is going to have a stronger self-image?
Which child is going to be more self-confident? Which child is going to be a leader versus a follower in the classroom? Clearly, the one whose parents taught him or her reading early, at a young age, at home.
Even at a young age, children have social awareness. They know who is more popular. They can tell who can do what. If there are a few children in kindergarten who know how to read, they may receive awards and certificates, be called upon to choose books or encouraged to write, illustrate and read aloud their own stories. In some schools, they may even be asked to help other children, who may still be struggling with basic letter recognition.
Early readers have the opportunity to relate to their peers on a more confident, more competent level as they are already being recognized for their superior accomplishments. Such experiences increase the child's social status among peers as well as his or her self-image and self-confidence.
Children who can read independently and early have more opportunities to encounter the written word. The sooner children learn how to read, the more books, knowledge, and ideas they will be exposed to. The result? Improved linguistic skills in the form of a richer vocabulary, correct grammar, improved writing, better spelling and more articulate oral communication. Such children have the opportunity to develop a wider vocabulary to describe their knowledge, observations and experiences. It has been shown that children with a richer vocabulary do far better in scholastic areas, especially in the early years. Their stronger reading skills also enable them to communicate more effectively orally as well as in writing. Furthermore, early readers can recognize a larger number of words by sight, which enables them to learn more from and about their environment.
The School, which Fosters this kind of approach and emphasis on early reading ( literacy), will contribute a lot to the well being of that individual throughout the life and also be being able to contribute to the society at large as a responsible citizen. ( there are numerous research findings, that good foundation for early education, will develop the child to be responsible to oneself and also to the community and society at large.