Reading Pathways

Over the past few months, we have been exploring the important impact that reading from a young age has on your child’s lifelong success. Experiencing the joys of reading helps your child to excel in both their academic life and personal life—improving their cognitive abilities and their personal well-being. However, we’ve also touched on the idea that any form of reading—not just deep-diving into lengthy novels—counts towards your child’s recommended daily reading goal. Reading success is not exclusively for children who are already dedicated bookworms. With some guidance, it is achievable for any child, no matter their interests or abilities. And interest is a key factor here, as the power of choice has a significant impact on a child’s engagement with what they’re reading. The more engaged a child is from the beginning, the more likely they are to associate reading with fun.

Your child may not be currently interested in chapter books and novels, but perhaps they’re a budding scientist with a keen interest in robotics? Maybe they love to paint and draw and create fun craft projects in their spare time? Maybe they have a flair for the dramatic and love engaging in some role-playing games, or going on spy missions with their friends? Using your child’s interests is a fantastic way to boost their reading skills without forcing them to read something that doesn’t interest them, and that could potentially turn them off reading for pleasure in the future. This method of using ‘reading pathways’ is a fantastic stepping stone to help turn any child into a reader—and this is where activity-based reading comes into play.

Activity-based learning stimulates children's senses, ensuring that they are engaged as they’re learning. As they complete hands-on tasks, children are sharpening literacy skills as they read instructions, record outcomes, ask questions, collaborate with others, problem solve, research solutions and think creatively. Activity-based learning covers four key reading pathways, including:
-Creative Arts.

Studies have shown that children learn best when the learning is active; when they are engaged in hands-on games and activities, and are truly involved in what they are learning. When children use all of their senses, it helps their brains to create pathways that make it easier and faster for them to retain information. This is where Communication, the first of the reading pathways, comes into play.

Communication reading pathways include activities that enhances a child’s reading, writing, speaking and listening skills. A wide-range of activities fall into this category, including many that your child may already love, such as journals, walkie-talkies, literacy games, crosswords, calligraphy sets, construction toys and more. Each of these activities can be used as a tool to help encourage your child on their reading journey. A diary, for example, is an excellent communication tool. Encourage your child to write in their diary once a week, about any topic that they like—their weekend, their week at school, future plans etc. Set aside some time each week to sit down as a family and to allow your child to read their entry aloud to you and then have a discussion about what they’ve written. By filling out the diary and reading it aloud to you, your child is required to practise both their written and verbal communication skills.

When building a construction toy, encourage your child to read the instructions carefully before starting. As they start to build, if something isn’t quite working, refer them back to the instructions and encourage them to discuss with someone what isn’t working and how this can be overcome. Provide them with reassurance to keep going and to keep exploring their curiosity. As they’re building, ask them to describe their thinking and to give reasons for it. Make sure you are open and share your mistakes too so they know that, not only is it ok to make mistakes, it is essential to learning!

The next reading pathway is Investigation. When children are actively engaged in an investigation activity, they are often unaware that they are actually learning and doing ‘work’. By finding an investigative activity that they’re interested in, children often become increasingly self-motivated to explore and learn. Activities that fall under Investigation require children to use their exploration and research skills, such as spy kits, atlases, rock and gem kits, science craft kits and more. Each of these hands-on items can be used as a pathway to encourage your child on their reading journey. A spy kit, for example, requires a child to carefully investigate and explore each component in the kit. In order to correctly operate the gadgets and successfully complete the spy missions, a child needs to carefully read and analyse the instructions and accompanying mission handbook. In doing so, your child is not only having fun by exploring and researching a topic that interests them, they’re also strengthening their analytical and literacy skills.

The next important reading pathway is Real-world/STEM. STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths) activities are excellent for promoting the use of a child’s critical thinking and problem solving skills. When a child is required to problem solve, they are developing and strengthening new neural pathways, which will allow their abilities in other areas to grow. Examples of STEM-based activities include robot kits, coding and programming kits, space-themed activities, crystal growing kits, science lab kits, soap and bath bomb kits and more. Not only will these activities vastly improve a child’s mathematical skills and problem-solving abilities, they will also be of immense benefit to their reading and literacy skills. Hands-on, gender-neutral STEM-focused activities are ideal for helping your child to develop their critical thinking and problem solving skills—aspects essential in an emerging mathematician and bookworm alike. STEM activities also provide an opportunity for you to sit down with your child in a screen-free environment and support their maths and literacy development.

An example of this includes working on an activity item such as a coding set. Our Code and Go Mouse set, for example, requires a child to use their problem-solving abilities by building a maze and then use their critical thinking skills to read and use coding cards to create a path for the robot mouse. In order to complete each step of the activity, a child is required to thoroughly read and understand the instructions—a great opportunity for a family member to join-in and provide assistance and encouragement when needed. By analysing and following the instructions, a child is also strengthening their literacy skills.

The final reading pathway to explore is Creative Arts. Bringing creativity and literacy together is a powerful way to build confidence and teach practical skills to a child, while simultaneously allowing them to embrace their creative side. It allows children to be active in literacy, to explore their imaginations, and to improve their oral language and listening skills through active team building. This approach is also beneficial for families with children who struggle with traditional methods of learning, e.g. children who are dyslexic and reluctant readers. Activities that bring literacy and creativity together include craft kits, art sets, colouring and sticker books, puzzles, fashion, and drama-related materials. Each of these activities encourage children to explore their creative side, whether it’s in a collaborative group environment or when working independently.

Story-writing prompts are an excellent example of Creative Arts activity items. Children are often natural storytellers and love creating imaginary worlds. They also love to get involved in making things come to life, giving them a sense of achievement and creative satisfaction. Encourage your child to use a story-writing prompt to come up with a story or play and then get them to read or perform their piece for you. Elements within their creative writing can lead to excellent educational discussions. A story about pirates setting sail on the high seas and looking for treasure islands can be used as a discussion to help teach children about geography and history. A play about magical creatures can lead to a conversation about fantasy and real vs. not real.

Each of these reading pathways and the activities that fall under them are incredibly important during a child’s journey of self-development. They allow a child the freedom to explore in-depth a topic that interests them, while simultaneously developing and strengthening their literacy, analytical, problem-solving and critical thinking skills.

Written by: Alesha Evans