Reading is incredibly valuable for children of all ages. One of the most significant ways that reading impacts children is in the development of critical thinking skills: When children read, they are not only absorbing information, but they are also learning to think critically about what they are reading. They are encouraged to analyze the plot, characters, and themes of a story, and draw conclusions about what they have read.
Independent reading provides a great opportunity for children to exercise and develop their critical thinking skills in multiple ways.
- Observation: When reading independently, children are able to observe and take note of the details in the text. This can help them make connections between different parts of the story and better understand the author's message.
- Analysis: As children read independently, they can break down complex ideas and concepts into smaller parts and analyze each part separately. This can help them identify key themes and ideas in the text.
- Evaluation: Independent reading can also help children evaluate the information they encounter and determine its credibility, relevance, and usefulness. This can help them develop their ability to think critically and make informed decisions.
- Inference: Children can make inferences based on the information presented in the text and draw conclusions based on that information. This can help them develop their ability to make logical connections between ideas and concepts.
- Synthesis: When reading independently, children can combine different pieces of information to form new ideas or solutions. This can help them develop their creativity and problem-solving skills.
- Metacognition: Independent reading also provides an opportunity for children to reflect on their own thinking processes and identify their own strengths and weaknesses. This can help them become more aware of their own thinking habits and make intentional efforts to improve their critical thinking skills.
Many research studies have been conducted that support these findings. The Cunningham and Stanovich (1997) study followed a sample of individuals over a period of 10 years, starting in first grade. The study found that early reading experience was a strong predictor of reading ability and academic achievement ten years later. Interestingly, children who had more exposure to print in their early years had better reading comprehension, vocabulary, and general knowledge, as well as higher academic achievement in later years. These skills are all related to critical thinking.
Research by Kendeou et al. (2009) examined a sample of 157 first-grade students and assessed their oral language skills, decoding skills, and reading comprehension abilities. This study found that children's reading comprehension skills were related to their ability to make inferences and draw conclusions based on what they read, which are both critical thinking skills.
An article by Kuhn and Dean (2004) discusses the importance of metacognition in critical thinking and how reading can help children develop metacognitive skills. The authors argue that metacognition is a crucial skill for successful learning, as it enables students to plan, monitor, and evaluate their own learning processes.
Finally, a chapter authored by Nagy and Herman (1987) details how reading helps children develop a broader and deeper vocabulary, which is essential for understanding and analyzing complex texts.
Overall, independent reading provides children with an opportunity to exercise and develop their critical thinking skills in a way that is engaging and enjoyable. By encouraging children to read, parents can help them become more independent, thoughtful, and effective problem-solvers.
- Cunningham, A. E., & Stanovich, K. E. (1997). Early reading acquisition and its relation to reading experience and ability 10 years later. Developmental Psychology, 33(6), 934-945. doi: 10.1037/0012-16126.96.36.1994
- Kendeou, P., Van den Broek, P., White, M. J., & Lynch, J. S. (2009). Predicting reading comprehension in early elementary school: The independent contributions of oral language and decoding skills. Journal of Educational Psychology, 101(4), 765-778. doi: 10.1037/a0015956
- Kuhn, D., & Dean Jr, D. (2004). Metacognition: A bridge between cognitive psychology and educational practice. Theory into Practice, 43(4), 268-273. doi: 10.1207/s15430421tip4304_2
- Nagy, W. E., & Herman, P. A. (1987). Breadth and depth of vocabulary knowledge: Implications for acquisition and instruction. In M. G. McKeown & M. E. Curtis (Eds.), The Nature of Vocabulary Acquisition (pp. 19-35). Hillsdale, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.