Parents are children's first teachers

 Children are more motivated to pick up reading skills when they witness their parents reading at home or are encouraged to read by their non-reader parents.
Children are more motivated to pick up reading skills when they witness their parents reading at home or are encouraged to read by their non-reader parents.PHOTO: ST FILE

To some, reading is a means to an end to derive knowledge. To others, reading is an end in itself because it is pleasurable.

Perhaps, instead of asking who should teach kids to read, we need to first address the question of who should motivate them to do it.

Parents are children's first teachers.

Children are more motivated to pick up reading skills when they witness their parents reading at home or are encouraged to read by their non-reader parents.

Teaching children to read becomes effective only when kids are naturally motivated to want to acquire reading skills by their parents.

Teachers and parents play complementary roles in raising readers.

At home, parents need to set aside "bedtime story time", simply reading aloud to their children.

Parents who are non-readers can motivate their children by making sure appropriate electronic and physical reading materials are easily accessible, for example, by taking their children to the library, or joining book and reading clubs.

The mechanics of reading involve decoding words phonetically, gaining knowledge of word formation, vocabulary and language structure.

These are best performed by knowledgeable others.

However, without the support of parents to help children with their "spelling list" - useful in vocabulary-building for quick word and meaning decoding - the joy of independent reading may be frustrated.

Both motivating and teaching kids reading are only the beginning of children acquiring reading skills.

Ultimately, it takes a village to sustain children's reading habits by making electronic and physical books affordable and accessible to all.

Rebecca Chan (Dr)

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 30, 2019, with the headline 'Parents are children's first teachers'. Print Edition | Subscribe