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Reading for Children

Let's Make Reading Fun!

February 24, 2011

Starting a Children's Reading Program: Part 1 - Benefits to Students & Schools

Well that time of year is rapidly approaching again with the new school year due to start in March / April. This is a very good time for schools / teachers who don't currently have a children's reading program in their school, but would like to, to explore this opportunity further.

This is part 1 of a 3 part entry that I'll be writing with regards to having a children's reading program in your school. In this entry, part 1, I'll be looking at the benefits of having a children's reading program to both students and schools / teachers alike. Part 2, which I will be posting in the coming weeks will discuss what to look for in a good children's reader. The final entry, part 3 will offer advice and ideas on how to implement a children's reading program in your school/classes.

As I said earlier, there are many benefits of having a reading program in your school / classes, not only for students, but for schools also. Some are very obvious, and some, maybe a little less so. I will be discussing some of the more important benefits here.


Benefits to Students:

Giving students the opportunity to reinforce, review and see the language that they are studying in context:
As with many children's teachers in Japan, I am in a situation where I work at a private language school. In this situation, my students come to class only once a week for a one hour lesson. As we all well know, we would like for our students to have more opportunities to be exposed to English. However, this is the reality of our teaching situation. In this situation it can be very difficult for students to have opportunities to see the language that they are, or have studied in class in context. Having a children's reading program is one very good way of helping to overcome this obstacle. In this situation, a reading program can be particularly advantageous when much of the language you study in class is contained within the reader that you use. Idealistically, it's great to have a reader that directly complements students' course books or study. The added benefits of this are that not only does this give students the opportunity to view language in context, but also acts as a great method of review of language studied previously, keeping the language fresh in students' minds and also helps to reinforce language that students are either currently studying, or have studied at some time in the past. This also helps our students to absorb the language that they are, or have studied, at a deeper level.

Building confidence and motivation in students:
We have quite a comprehensive phonics program at our school. Phonics is the kind of thing that can often take some time to put all the little building blocks into place before the bigger picture can be clearly seen. With our particular program, we have our students learn their phonics and then they start our reading program. A very big light bulb seems to be switched on when our students discover that they can actually read! This seems to add a certain element of tangibility to all the hard effort and study that they have been doing up to that point. We find that students get a real kick out of this very obvious realisation of improvement, progress and accomplishment and it does wonders for their motivation and general positive attitude toward English, studying English and what English can do for them.

Increasing students' exposure to English outside the classroom:
As I touched on a little in an earlier point, our students don't have nearly enough exposure to English between their weekly classes with us. This is one of the great challenges for us as Children's English teachers in Japan. Again having a reading program for students allows them to come into contact with English more often when out of the classroom.

Benefits to Schools:
Schools also benefit greatly from having a children's reading program. This can be particularly applicable to the smaller private English schools in Japan. Here are some of the main advantages for schools.

Showing parents very tangible evidence of improvement & increased student retention rates:
Often, it can be difficult for parents to see tangible evidence of their child's improvement when concerning their English studies. This is usually due to things such as the fact that many Japanese children can be too shy to speak English in front of their parents and often because of this, parents have no idea as to what their child is learning, or whether they are progressing. From a 'business' perspective, parents 'not knowing' can be one of the worst enemies to the small English school. Lack of tangible evidence of improvement can lead to parents wondering if they are getting what they are paying for, parents developing a lack of confidence in the school/teacher, or ultimately parents pulling children out of schools due to feeling dissatisfied. Having a reading program is a great way to overcome this problem.

What I mean by this is the situation where little Takahiro, for example, starts at an English school. It is his first experience with learning English. When he first starts at the school, he knows no alphabet, no phonics and no conversation. Twelve months later, as part of his weekly homework, Takahiro takes his reader home every week and reads in front of his parents. This is basically the system that we have at our school. This is obviously great for the student, the parents feel very happy with what we are doing, as they can clearly see the improvement in their child's English and from a business perspective it probably results in some of the greatest marketing/word of mouth that our school has, as parents tell other parents when they see this happening. This very effective form of marketing/word of mouth comes to us at a cost of zero.

Additionally, because the school has satisfied parents who can see steady and continuous improvement in the child's English, students tend to stay enrolled at the school for much longer periods of time, resulting in student retention rates improve dramatically. This is clearly very beneficial to any school.

Having a children's reading program really is a win/win situation for all concerned. For teachers/school owners reading this entry who do not currently have a reading program within their school, I strongly recommend looking into this highly beneficial addition to a children's curriculum.

Please drop by to check out part 2 of this 3 part entry, 'What to Look for in a Good Reader', which I will be posting in the coming weeks.

Have fun reading!



« Sound Stop! | Main | Starting a Children's Reading Program: Part 2 - What to Look for in a Good Reader »

Comments

Greg,

Yep. you are right on the money. Without the evidence of tangible progress parents start to doubt that anything is getting learned in the classroom when they are not watching. A reading program that works in the classroom and teaches kids to learn to read on their own is ideal. The EFL market provides a plethora of whole language learning books - generally fun stories with familiar characters - but very few provide a graded phonics system or set of learners that allow kids to show their prowess at home. Like you say, essential to maintain the parents' understanding and support.
What age do you start the program from, I wonder?
At my school we defer any written homework programs until they are at elementary school age. Perhaps we are waiting too late?
Charlie, Osaka

To Greg,
I agree with all your points on having a reading program. I'm introducing a program to our school from April.
The books haven't been decided upon yet, nor the system/pricing for each student using the books. I look forward to parts 2 and 3 of your column, and hope that they come soon.
thank you.
Jeremy

Hi Charlie,

You're right, it is quite difficult to find quality graded readers out there for kids. We found exactly the same situation when we were first developing our reading program quite a few years ago.

Like you, we start our kids with their reading and writing from elementary school age. They start our phonics program from when they enter first year elementary school. On average, about 12 months later we have them taking stories home and reading them on a weekly basis.

Hi Jeremy,

Thanks for your interest and I'm very happy to hear you're starting a reading program. I'm sure you'll find it both rewarding for students and teachers alike, as well as beneficial in so many ways as stated in my post. Please feel free to contact me at anytime if you have any questions or inquiries regarding your program, I'd be happy to help in any way I could.

All the best,
Greg


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