Is your child reading enough?

Extensive and consistent reading improves learner’s vocabulary and writing. This is one of the fundamental axioms of education and cognitive psychology. It instills in the learner an intuition for language that can not be replicated by any other method. The greatest minds in history spent many of their days reading and contemplating in silence, without complex online learning portals or benchmark-oriented modern education.

Children are products of their surroundings. They mimic the behaviour and language to which they are exposed. This frustrates parents, since the maturity and complexity of language they produce is limited in many cases by the diminishing standards of mainstream media today. It is unfortunate that the level of linguistic sophistication to which we are habitually exposed has fallen so low. Just think of the language used by an average video blogger. So what can you as a parent do about it?

Children’s attitudes towards books, and by extension learning, depend in many cases on the attitude of their household. In Hong Kong’s cramped living spaces, do you set the right example for your children by prioritizing books on bookshelves? Do your children catch you on your phone or with a book? Do you correct your children when they speak, and suggest them better vocabulary?

We were all young once. I remember lying to my mother about how many pages I had reached to on some of the books she forced me to read. Reading seemingly interminable tracts against one’s will qualifies either as a means to an end or as meaningless torture. And yet, hopefully most of us remember those moments of lighthearted, page-turning bliss when we found something that interested us. For me, I found this first in a picture book about sharks and later in the novel Troy by Adele Geras.

Some parents feel lucky in having children who are interested in mainstream academic subjects. Others are dismayed to find their child interested in guns or Instagram celebrities. Our professional advice is that the act of reading is far more important than the content. Since critical thinking (i.e. how to make up one’s own mind) has been absent from education for the past two centuries, children need intellectual guidance and sound reason from their parents when tackling controversial subjects. Don’t worry about what they read as long as you can take the time to engage them and to make them reflect critically on what they have understood.

Your children may not be ready for the content you would have them tackle. I was too young to understand The Catcher in the Rye at age twelve, let alone Brave New World or Crime and Punishment. The greatest literature requires a mature mind with adult frames of reference to truly appreciate it. Do not try to rush your children into reading things that are impenetrable. Start with what they have expressed an interest in already, no matter how superficial and worthless it seems. It is always surprising how transferable knowledge is from one field to another. Reading anything is preferable to reading nothing.

To return to where we began, is your child reading enough? The philosophical refrain would be: of course your child is not reading enough, and neither are we. Thankfully, with the right influences from you as a parent, your children will be reading far more than their peers and will have concomitantly better vocabulary and awareness of writing conventions. Your children will have extensive and refined personalities capable of cross-cultural empathy. Naturally, this empathy spills outside the classroom. In this increasingly interconnected world, the edge that so many graduates lack is true independence of thought and worldly knowledge, deeper elements of which are only accessible through literature.

Academics and intellectuals hail from all walks of life, across all income levels. Equally prevalent is the globalized culture of dumbed-down broadcasting and social discourse. When children read, they increase their knowledge. Smart children will always express themselves differently. They will stand out. They may be thought of as “strange” if an extrovert, or “nerdy” if an introvert. This might cause insecurities that would not be there if they had just stuck with the few hundred functional vocabulary words necessary for a bare-minimum human existence. Nonetheless, the rewards represent fruit which bear more with every harvest. This development greatly outweighs any potential social implications. Their diligence is their ultimate gain.

At BartyED, we cater to every kind of learner. Our subject specialists design customized reading materials to engage our students and to get them learning independently. We are the only educational consultancy in Hong Kong whose curriculum is individualized to the student. That’s one of the reasons why we take the time to get to know and evaluate prospective clients to ensure that we are the right match. Rigorous, bespoke mentoring builds confident and holistic learners. To book a consultation or to find out more, kindly email