Girl sitting and reading in her room

Why is Reading Important?

Written by Adele Keyser

This piece was updated on the 19th of February 2021.

“The more you read, the more things you know. The more that you learn, the more places you’ll go.” This is a famous quote by Dr Suess. And it’s 100% accurate. The importance of reading skills cannot be stressed enough. As a teacher, I often find that when I express my concern about a child’s reading ability and comprehension to parents, particularly at around the age of 10, parents are quite taken aback and I’m greeted with “but they’re so young, give them a chance.” When a teacher shows concern in this area, it is with due cause. Reading is fundamental in helping us find and convey information. It’s an essential skill that’s developed at a very young age. Here’s why reading is beneficial to all of us, and how the importance of reading comprehension is essential to understanding the world around us.

The benefits of reading

Reading has many benefits, but it’s a skill that even a lot of adults don’t use enough. Apart from the necessity of reading to get by in today’s world, let’s look at some other benefits of reading and how these can contribute positively to your child’s development.

Reading helps you discover the world

Reading is a gateway to learning anything about everything. It helps you discover new things and educate yourself in any area of life you are interested in. You can find a book on just about any subject you can imagine, dive in and start learning. Your child can learn about their interests (and even themselves) through reading things they enjoy.

Reading develops your imagination and creativity

When we watch television or a movie, all the information is given to us on the screen – there’s nothing we need to imagine. A book in its pure form is just words on a page, and our minds have to do the work, imagining the words coming to life. This does wonders to develop our creativity and imagination.

Reading improves vocabulary and communication

Giving your child access to a world of words is one of the best ways to improve their vocabulary and enhance their spelling skills. New knowledge that’s gained through enjoyment has a tendency to stick and doesn’t even feel like work! Both their written and spoken communication abilities can be improved through regular reading.

Reading helps with building a good self-image and playing well with others

Learning new concepts, discovering exciting places and understanding others’ perspectives is key to building a well-rounded self-image – not to mention the self-esteem boost from being able to read well! It’s at early ages that children can be most easily influenced, and a positive reading experience can do wonders to help them form a positive perception of themselves. Reading also has social benefits. Children can discuss stories with others and form friendships over shared interests.

Reading improves concentration and reduces stress

Not only does reading focus your attention entirely on the task at hand, it also immerses you in the information, improving concentration and memory of what you read. Getting completely involved in a book can help us relax and feel calm.

Active vs passive reading

Learning to read is the first step. From there, your child will start to increase comprehension and become an active reader. The use of appropriate reading strategies is essential in learning and in life. So, what is the difference between a “passive” unskilled reader and an “active” skilled reader?

The passive reader

Have you ever read a page in a book and not taken in anything you’ve just read? Or caught yourself reading and re-reading the same paragraph without actively acknowledging the words? This is passive reading without any meaningful engagement.

The active reader

Active readers engage with what they’re reading. They read with an open and questioning mind, and they stop to think more about what things mean. Here are some ideas, as set out by Miami University, of how skilled active readers read:

  • They can predict what will happen next in a story using clues they gain from reading.
  • They create questions about the main idea, message or plot.
  • They monitor understanding of the sequence, context or characters.
  • They stop to clarify parts of the text that have confused them.They connect events in the text to prior knowledge or experience.
Problems with reading are often identified or can start to become an issue in Grade 4. It is at this stage that children need to start actively engaging with the material they read. They are required to find information through active reading. An example would be reading something with comprehension for school. Without active reading skills, children can’t make sense of how the information they’re reading connects with anything. If they’re required to compare two different sources of information, and their active reading skills aren’t starting to develop more fully, they will struggle to comprehend how to complete the task.

If you’re interested in improving your child’s reading, you might be interested in promoting your child’s active listening skills.

The importance of reading comprehension

Reading comprehension is the ability to understand a written passage of text. It’s the bridge between the passive reader and active reader, and the crucial link to effective reading – essential for a rich academic, professional and personal life. Reading comprehension involves several different processes, such as imagining what the words describe, understanding the context of the book and being able to answer questions related to a text. Think about a book you’ve read before, and then try to summarise what the book was about. If your child can answer questions about a book or text, explain important events that happened in a story and have an opinion about why the events may have occurred, they’re displaying comprehension skills. Without reading and comprehension skills, children will struggle to grow academically, as reading is the foundation to all academic subjects such as History, Mathematics and Science. It also influences your child’s ability to write. Reading fluency is also a very important part of reading comprehension, as readers who spend their time decoding words often lose the understanding of what is being read. If your child is still decoding at a Grade 3 level, it’s vital to focus on the basics to give them a strong reading comprehension foundation. This can include paying more attention, auditory analysis, sound blending, memory, processing speed and visual perception. A lack of strong reading comprehension skills affects a child’s success at school, as academic progress depends on understanding, analysing and applying information gathered through reading.

How to help your child’s reading comprehension

If your child needs some help improving their reading comprehension, encourage active reading by focusing on these strategies:

Reading with purpose

Active reading encourages understanding through engagement with the text. If your child is interested in the material, they will be far more likely to involve themselves in learning about it and become a more active reader.

Learning vocabulary

It’s very easy to lose track of what you’re reading if you don’t understand some of the words, but we all tend to skim over words we don’t know on occasion without taking the time to look them up. Learning new vocabulary will help your child get a deeper understanding of what they’re reading. Ask your child to write down any words that they don’t understand and you can look up the meanings together.

Retelling what they’ve read

After they’ve read a short section of a text, ask your child to tell you about it in their own words. Recalling the story helps with comprehension, and you can also gauge how much they’ve understood.

Asking and answering questions

Read the same text or chapter as your child and open a discussion by asking them questions about it and inviting them to do the same. Discussing a book is an excellent way to check understanding and keep the material fresh in their mind.

Summarising the important facts

Summarising is a great way to improve active reading and comprehension skills. It requires an understanding of the whole text and judgement about which information is the most important. If your child can tell you the important parts of a story, they’re well on their way to being an exceptional active reader!

What should parents do to improve their child’s reading skills?

A lot of reading difficulty can come about because children feel like reading is hard work, or they just aren’t interested in what they are reading. Encouraging good reading habits is a step in the right direction for parents looking to help their children read well.

Read to your child

It’s never too early to start reading to your child and reading together can become a healthy and enjoyable family activity. Reading out loud exposes young children to new words that will help their language skills. Interacting with books from an early age helps to make the activity into a routine.

Read to yourself

If your child sees you reading regularly, they’re more likely to build an interest in the activity. Find a book you love and read whenever you get the chance. Your child will learn from you.

Surround them with books

Having a variety of books to choose from is a great way for your child to discover what interests them. Reading something enjoyable will do wonders for their curiosity and reading comprehension. They’ll be skilled, active readers in no time! Reading is important because words are the building blocks of life. Get your child excited about reading, and they’ll surprise you with their progress.

WorksheetCloud offers your child access to engaging English and Afrikaans comprehension worksheets. Sign up now – we offer a seven-day money-back guarantee.

The Author - Adele Keyser

Adele has 27 years experience in teaching pre-primary, foundation phase, intermediate-senior phase and adult education. That's 27 years experience in dealing with children (and parents!). Currently teaching in Cape Town, her major focus is building classroom environments that foster healthy self-esteem and help children realise what they're capable of.

WorksheetCloud is the most exciting way to study for exams and tests!

You might also be interested in:

How to Develop Critical Thinking Skills in Kids

How to Develop Critical Thinking Skills in Kids

The way our children are questioned and taught to think in school in this modern age is different to the way we were taught as parents. Read our guide to understanding the difference and see how you can help your child.

19 Comments

  1. Mbalenhle

    I am so touched about this email, as my son is in grade 7 he still struggles to read and spell words in a way that a certain school is refusing to take him for interview after his interview as he struggled to read a comprehension that was given to him. Please assist, how can I help him to overcome this? I am very worried!

    Reply
    • Kayleen Olivier

      Hi Mbalenhle

      Thanks for your message.

      We are glad to hear that you found some value from this blog post.

      Learning to read is a challenge for many kids, but most can become good readers if they get the right help. Parents have an important job in recognizing when a child is struggling and knowing how to find help.

      A good place to start, would be to make an appointment to speak with your child’s teacher. The best thing that can happen is for parents and teachers to begin talking together to plan ways to help a child overcome or cope with his or her reading difficulties. You can be supportive at home while the teacher can accommodate your child’s needs and work to increase his or her skills in the classroom. Together you can make sure the help a child receives out-of-school meshes with what’s happening in school. When you meet, ask questions such as:
      – Do you think my child is having trouble with reading?
      – What specific trouble is my child having?
      – What can I do to help my child at home?
      – What can be done to help my child in class?
      – Which reading group is my child in?
      – How is he or she doing compared to other students?

      If the teacher is unable to assist, or thinks that your child may need an assessment, ask the school for an evaluation. You can write a short letter to request that the school’s specialists review your child’s progress, they will determine whether a child should be checked for speech or language delays, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), dyslexia, or other conditions that may be affecting how your child learns. If it is determined that your child needs extra help or a short intervention, the school may be able to provide this either in the child’s regular classroom or with a remedial specialist at the school.

      Note: Do make sure that your child is evaluated in his or her strongest language. It is important that your child is tested in the language he or she knows best. The purpose of such testing is to find out whether a child’s reading problem is due to second language learning, language delay, or a learning disability.

      If the school will not evaluate your child, or they evaluate your child and you think you need a second opinion, consider going to a specialist outside of the school. They can do an “independent education evaluation.” There will likely be a fee, however.

      You could also take a look at some more of our blog posts on reading and how to improve reading skills, you can find these articles here:
      https://www.worksheetcloud.com/blog/the-art-of-reading-with-your-child/
      https://www.worksheetcloud.com/blog/4-ways-to-improve-your-childs-reading-in-2016/

      I hope this helps. Please let us know if you’d like more information or tips on how to address reading difficulties at home, we’ll be happy to help.

      Kayleen 🙂

      Reply
  2. Isaac A. Engel

    Thank you very much for this excellent article. I am an Afrikaans Language High School teacher. If only all parents of primary school learners could have read this important information. It is indeed heart-breaking for a gr 8 learner to come here and struggle to read.

    Reply
  3. SHIRLEY SWAI

    Reading problems can partly be contributed by the poor orientation to the learners.Some learners fail to catch up with the rest of their fellows as they join the school late.When they join late they find others have gone so far.As a result they do not much and hence they develop fear.

    Special treatment should be established to them in order to orient them gradually until they master the basic skills for reading.

    Reply
  4. Cindy

    I believe reading should take place at an early age WHereby a child will be equipped with solid foundation of literacy

    Reply
    • Ross Frank

      Hi Cindy! Thanks so much for your comment! I couldn’t agree with you more! When children learn to read at an early age, they have greater general knowledge, expand their vocabulary and become more fluent readers.

      Early readers can also recognize a larger number of words by sight, which enables them to learn more from and about their environment.

      Please let us know if there are any other blog topics you would like for us to cover in the future or if you have any questions regarding our content.

      Ross 🙂

      Reply
  5. Maureen Ngcobo

    I have created a colourful welcoming reading area with different size books , magazines . I put flashcards and alphabetical chart n even words they appear on our daily lives so this help me to encourage them to read

    Reply
    • Ross Frank

      Hi Maureen! Thanks for your comment! That’s a great idea, thanks for sharing! Please let us know if there are any other blog topics you would like for us to cover in the future or if you have any questions regarding our content.

      Ross 🙂

      Reply
  6. Eli Mcmullen

    You make a good point when you mention how reading can help people improve vocabulary when speaking and writing. I have noticed that my sister’s vocabulary is causing her to struggle in school, especially when she tries to write essays. Maybe it would be best for her to start reading more books to help her develop an advanced vocabulary.

    Reply
    • Ross Frank

      Hi Eli! Thanks so much for your comment! If practiced correctly, reading books and novels suiting your sister’s level can accelerate vocabulary-building, improve grammar, and sharpen writing. Although reading doesn’t directly impact your spoken English, it can to some extent improve it through better vocabulary, reading out loud, and a deeper knowledge base. I hope this helps.

      Ross 🙂

      Reply
  7. Darrien Hansen

    I love that you brought up how reading can help develop your mind to be more creative and assist you is becoming more imaginative. My brother would like to write a fantasy novel someday, but his ideas seem to be dry and uncreative since he didn’t enjoy reading as a child. Perhaps introducing him to some new books could help him come up with more creative ideas for his novel.

    Reply
    • Ross Frank

      Hi Darrien! Thanks for your comment! Research has shown that reading is key to boosting our own mental capacity and creativity. Introducing your brother to some new books will definitely spark some creativity for his novel.

      You can read through this article on exactly how reading inspires creativity: https://thatistheday.com/reading-will-inspire-creativity/

      I hope this helps.

      Ross 🙂

      Reply
    • Ross Frank

      Hi Rajan! Thanks for your comment and for sharing the article! Please let us know if there are any other blog topics you would like for us to cover in the future or if you have any questions regarding our content.

      Ross 🙂

      Reply
  8. Mei

    Hello! May I ask what year did you published this article? If it’s okay I’ll include it as one of my references in my research. Thank you so much! 🙂

    Reply
    • Ross Frank

      Hi Mei! Thanks for your comment on our blog!

      Sure no problem! The article was posted in 2017.

      I hope this helps!

      Ross 🙂

      Reply
  9. Derek Swain

    I’m thankful that you mentioned how your child may have difficulties with learning if they do not develop their reading skills. My son has recently mentioned that he doesn’t understand what is going on when he attends kindergarten classes, and I recently found out that he doesn’t have any of the alphabet memorized. I think reading books with him at home would help ensure that he stays on track when he is at school.

    Reply
  10. Levi Armstrong

    I agree with what you said that reading develops a person’s mind and imagination, which makes them more creative. My son is turning twelve soon, and he’s a really creative teen. Perhaps I should buy him the new young adult superhero books for his birthday. Thanks for this!

    Reply
    • Ross Frank

      Hi Levi, thanks for your comment!

      I’m really happy to hear that you found or blog useful! I’m sure he would love those superhero books for his birthday, I know I would!

      Please let us know if there are any other blog topics you would like for us to cover in the future or if you have any questions regarding our content.

      Ross 🙂

      Reply

Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Share This