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Reading matters: Teaching kids to love words

Reading. We all know it is important but have you ever wondered why it matters so much? From improving concentration, building general knowledge, and stimulating creativity to developing empathy and understanding the world around us, literacy is a basic life skill that has a huge impact on our careers, relationships and ability to communicate with others.

With some of the best 2016 ISA (International Student Assessment) results for reading in the entire Asia Pacific region, One World International is one school that clearly agrees. We talk to Grade 5 teacher Alice Nixon, about how they instil a love for reading from an early age.

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How does One World International School (OWIS) approach learning to read?
Throughout OWIS, great emphasis is placed on reading comprehension skills. A child may be able to read through a chapter with apparent ease, but can they understand it? We are dedicated to the importance of establishing sound reading skills, something that is reflected in our recent ISA test results.

Reading comprises of two main skills. ‘Decoding’, which is the ability to simply read print, and ‘comprehension’ which entails understanding what is being read. Often, children are said to be ‘good readers’ because they can read fluently. However, without comprehension skills, students easily miss out on meaning; as well as losing other benefits such as learning new vocabulary, gaining general knowledge and appreciating different genres of writing.

Teachers at One World fully embrace the ethos that, in order to be able to fully understand and appreciate texts, students should learn how to use inference (‘reading between the lines’) and deduction (‘reading beyond the lines’) skills within structured, regular group sessions. As is the case with all learning, students’ progression in reading occurs at different rates, something which is taken into account through the school’s use of a levelled reading scheme.

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How do you encourage children to read for pleasure?
Our reading curriculum would not be as successful if it were not for the positive attitude towards ‘reading for pleasure’ that is fostered throughout the school. Students have regular, timetabled slots in the staffed library where they are free to choose their own texts to take home. Our successful readers take time to carefully select a genre that appeals to them and are happy to discuss the content of the text – applying the skills of ‘decoding’ and ‘comprehension’. A combination of all of these factors leads to a reader who will make continued progress and, hopefully, become an avid reader appreciating the world of literature around them. OWIS students can be heard talking about their favourite books – and giving recommendations to their peers – and can also be seen sitting with a book in their leisure time.

Another way we encourage students to continue to improve their reading skills is the personalised, levelled ‘Home Readers’ programme. Students, right from the start of Primary School take books home to share with their parents. This approach continues throughout their school life. Even in Grade 5, when students are taking library books home, regular entries in ‘Reading Logs’ form a significant part of homework.

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What is the ISA (International Student Assessment) and why is it important?
The ISA assessment is a programme specifically designed for international school students in Grades 3-10. It is carried out by the Australian Centre of Educational Research (ACER) and based on an internationally endorsed reading, mathematical literacy and scientific literacy system designed to assess the students’ thinking process and the extent to which they can apply their knowledge to real-life situations.

This year, OWIS Grade 3 to Grade 5 students outperformed, on average, all other international schools in the Asia Pacific region, and Asia Pacific outperformed all other regions of the world, making our results some of the best on the planet! The results also show that English, and particularly reading, is one of the school’s real strengths.

One World International School
696 Upper Changi Rd East
6542 2285 | owis.org

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