Play and reading! What is the connection?

Reading. We all know how important it is. “Today a reader, tomorrow a leader.” And all those other important reading quotes.

But how do we actually get our children to read.

I’m not talking about just reading the basic short stories from school, but to actually love reading and to want to experience it and learn through it. Now, if reading is a struggle, your kids will not love it. But if they read with ease, they will develop a passion for reading. So we need to help our children read with ease, this will be the key to developing this passion.

The obvious answer is to read to them and that really is important. But reading to your children doesn’t help them build the skills necessary to actually read, and to read well. Reading is one of the most difficult skills a child will have to master; it incorporates perceptual skills such as auditory discrimination, body awareness, classification, fine motor skills, form perception, phonics and visual perception. I mean, seriously, how long is that list?? Just to read?! I will elaborate on each of these skills below, so that we all understand why they are necessary:

  1. Auditory discrimination is a child’s ability to differentiate different sounds from one another, and it is important in helping a child to sound out words when learning to read so that they can tell the difference between different vowel and consonant sounds, and their various combinations.
  2. Body awareness refers to the understanding of how your body functions, the coordination of movements and the ability to physically perform tasks. Tracking of the child’s head from left to right, eye’s from left to right, top to bottom, etc. are all necessary skills for reading.
  3. Classification is the ability to sort objects in accordance with their kind or their class. Children need to be able to recognise letters and words according to their classification; vowels and nouns for example.
  4. Fine-motor skills are a necessary perceptual skill, not only for the physical coordination that reading requires, such as holding the book, turning the pages, etc. but also for the cognitive links that hand-eye coordination builds within the brain. This helps children to string sentences together and make sense of longer sentences.
  5. Form perception is the ability that a child has to recognise shapes and distinguish them from one another. This is necessary for sight-words; words that children recognise by the shape. It also comes into play with speed reading so is a very valuable skill to develop.
  6. Phonics Children need to know how letters of the alphabet sound, what sounds they make when put together, and the different sounds words make. This helps them with understanding the flow of words and sentences. It also helps them sound out an unfamiliar word when reading, allowing them to grow their vocabulary.
  7. Visual Perception is the way that the brain interprets the messages being sent from the eyes. The ability to perceive words and letters is integral to reading, and is a skill that needs to be developed before effective reading can take place.

BUT, there is hope.

*Thankfully* all of these skills can be developed through play. Yup, you heard that right, all.of.these.skills. With a few targeted, outdoor activities, we can develop the perceptual skills in our kids necessary for them to develop a love for reading.

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