There is a tendency to focus on maths and second language and even third language in a child's learning curriculum and rightly so. However in the process are we ignoring English, the very medium in which many children study in?
Children moving to secondary school or to senior school in English medium begin to realise the magnitude of lessons and facts that need to be understood and remembered. The sciences and the social sciences curriculums have fascinating facts to understand. But as the grade increases so does the depth. To be able to absorb all the new information in all its complexity, children need to have good comprehension abilities. The ability to comprehend a variety of texts written differently becomes an essential skill. Unfortunately this is a skill that cannot be acquired overnight but needs to be developed over years.
But as the grade increases so does the depth. To be able to absorb all the new information in all its complexity, children need to have good comprehension abilities.
Reading a variety of books outside of school: Reading or rather 'studying' school textbooks doesn't count as reading, simply because the purpose of this reading is to prepare for test and examinations. Hence these reading requirements come along with a pressure to perform. Reading for pleasure on the other hand allows a child to explore the world of books freely, experience the magic of another world through the eyes of an interesting character in a story, ponder over how a character can solve a problem or imagine the vivid descriptions that different authors choose to give to draw the reader in. Through these descriptive texts, the child experiences different aspects in a story. If the character interests the child and the story is something that catches their attention, even if the text has new words, they become open to learning them simply because they want to understand the story.
The book Anton and Cecil Cats At Sea by Lisa Martin and Valerie Martin for instance brought cat lovers together at the Young Readers' Club. This book is filled with vivid descriptions of the docks, the sea and a key hole view of what it must be like to be a stray cat living off scraps in a busy shipyard. Written for the 9+ age group, the authors approach the story by making use of every opportunity to describe scenes and locations in detail. While it was hard initially for those who weren't used to reading heavy text, their love for cats and the cats in the book in particular motivated them to read this book slowly and appreciate this story for what it is.
Imagine having this kind of opportunity several times with several books over years? Children will learn to navigate a variety of texts with interest and their ability to absorb all sorts of information will only grow manifold.
Children's literature today is rich with books available across age groups, reading levels and interests. Starting early is the key to enhance comprehension abilities over the years. Reading outside of school for pleasure is very crucial. Being able to experiment with different kinds of books and settling with the ones that appeal the most at any given point in time is important to get comfortable with different writing approaches. To make this possible, access to a good library either at school or at home is critical. There will be hits and misses. Not every book one holds in one hand needs to be a fabulous read. Harry Potter is relished by some while it is despised by others. It definitely isn't the only book that must be read to improve one's English. There is a plethora of children's books waiting to be found, if you would only take the time and effort to look for them:)
If you are wondering where to find information about the plethora of children's books, do write to us. We have a long list of book recommendations given by young readers in the age group 8-11 as a part of our activity of the month, conducted every month! Another great source is Reading Racoons on Facebook.