Why you can't leave learning to read up to your child's school.

In Hong Kong, children usually do not learn reading as a specific skill, but rather are expected to grasp the complex reading process through natural ability or osmosis and as a side effect of learning English grammar. A few children are successful but many either only partially learn to read or fail completely. As a result, children either fail to learn to read at an adequate level to be literate or lose their desire to read for pleasure. The children who can read fluently in English invariably learn the process at home. Reading at school is associated with school work and the examination process rather than pleasure. It is that desire to read and the associated curiosity and interest that is essential to using reading and related skills successfully in life.

The most effective way to encourage children to love books and reading is to read aloud to them and the earlier you start, the better. Even a toddler can see pictures, listen to your voice, and turn pages. Helping a child to enjoy reading is one of the most important things a parent can do and it is well worth the investment of time and energy.

Often before sleep, this becomes a special time together when a child and parent can share the pleasure of a story without the distractions of Televisions or telephones. Indeed, a well-written children's book can often be as big a delight for the parent as it is for the child. In fact, reading aloud once a child has learned to read for themselves is still a very valuable experience. Encourage a child to read to you some of the time. This shared enjoyment will continue to strengthen a child's interest and enjoyment of reading. When reading aloud together, be sure to choose books that the child enjoys. If a book is boring, find one that is appealing.

Having books, magazines, and newspapers in the home help children view them as part of daily life. Reading frequently and enjoying reading will reinforce that view. Perhaps start a home library even if it's just a shelf or two. Include some books for children to handle freely. Allowing little children to touch and play with books helps develop strong attachments to books. How an adult handles books will influence how a child treats them.

Visit a good book store or a local library. The children's librarian is trained to help you locate specific books, such as books that are good for reading aloud, and books on a particular subject recommended for a particular age group. Also just browsing through the many books available at the library with a child is a valuable experience. For school-aged children there will be a school library available as a source of materials and the school librarian should be knowledgeable about children's literature. Encourage children to bring home books from their school library for pleasure as well as for their studies.


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