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Opinions of Monday, 22 June 2020

Columnist: Daniel Ofosu-Asamoah

Family Reading: What and why children read


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It may be a sheer mistake on the part of parents and teachers to treat children equally on the subject of what they want to read. It is worth noting that everybody reads for a purpose. Like it happens to everyone, children have their likes and dislike when it comes to what to read. Not only that, but also there are other factors that affect a child’s choice of which book to read. Consequently, parents and guardians who engage in family reading sessions ought to be particular about this before they choose a particular book for children to read.

For children to cultivate a lifelong reading culture, parents are advised to read to their wards at the early stage of their lives. This practice is for obvious reasons. One of the reasons is that the early stage of children’s lives is the period that habit formation takes place. The understanding is that if children are helped to cultivate the habit of reading, they would grow with it, as well as reap the benefits of reading since early exposure to reading books is known to substantially guarantee success in early literacy. More so, such children who develop early literacy by cultivating the habit of reading become successful learners.

However, as parents help children to develop an interest in lifelong reading, they ought to be knowledgeable of, as well as cognisant of what book children prefer to read, and what accounts for their interest in reading, including reading certain types of books.

This will help parents and guardians to achieve maximum results as they seek to inculcate the habit of reading among their children. Again, knowledge by parents and guardians of the interest of children in reading would help parents nurture and guide children to become rounded in their choice of books to read. Generally, like all book reading lovers, children will read for the purposes of entertainment, enlightenment, and for the challenge.

Beyond reading for entertainment, enlightenment, and the challenge, there are also a number of factors that influence the choice of books children to read. These factors include the age and stage of the child in school, nature, and nurture (the environment), and gender identity. It is important for parents to know that any of these variables can impact on a child’s reading habit.

Thus, parents’ appreciation of the factors that impact on the reading culture of children would help them identify the right environment, and also create the right condition to produce reading children. Below is a walkthrough of some of the factors that impact a child’s choice of books to read.

The age and stage of a child in a school play a significant role in the choice of which book a child reads. It is normal that very young children would like to read books with a lot of pictures as such children find it difficult to make meaning out of texts or interpret texts. For such children, the meaning of a story is derived from pictures of the books that they read. However, older children prefer to read books with a lot of texts as their interest in reading is always for information and entertainment.

With respect to the influence of gender on the choices children make regarding which book to read, Reading Monitor (2020) contends that motivational books seem to be more important to boys than girls. The reason behind boys seeming interested in motivational books is explained in Oakhil and Petrides (2007), as cited in Reading Monitor (2020).

According to Oakhill and Petrides (2007), boys find it more difficult than girls to focus on undesirable reading activities. This is also corroborated by Ainlley, Hillman, and Hidi (2002) which states that boys are able to summon less perseverance when it comes to reading texts which they do not find very captivating. For these reasons, boys are known to be a fan of books tagged as ‘boys books’ which are seen to be “exciting, adventurous stories with a lot of action and little emphasis on character development (Reading Monitor 2020).

Finally, it is believed that the argument of nature and nurture (environment) comes to the fore on why children become avid readers and also what children want to read. The argument of nature is to the extent that children who are avid readers are genetically determined. That is to say that children whose parents are avid readers have the genetic disposition to become avid readers.

On the other hand, the argument of nurture is to the effect that the family environment, including the community environment, and the school's impact on the reading development of children. What this means is that, even if reading is genetically determined, children with such genetic predispositions ought to be exposed to books before they could read or learn to read. For this reason, Van Bergen et al. (2017) conclude that genes and the environment have almost the same influence to a larger extent on one becoming interested in reading.

In conclusion, it is abundantly clear that certain factors contribute to what children read and why children would want to read a particular type of book, including why children become avid readers. Parents have a great responsibility in creating the required environment for children to develop an interest in reading, as the home is seen as the place where education begins. Parents also have the responsibility to be of help, by example and guidance.

At the end of the day, all children are to benefit from developing a culture of reading and thus need to be guided and motivated to realize this objective. For parents to be of significant help, they ought to be knowledgeable of the preferences of their wards on the subject of reading and help them build a culture of reading beyond their biases. One of the surest tools of achieving this is engaging in family reading, where participants exhibit their interests and preferences.

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