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How habits are formed

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Habit forming is essential to ensure your child reaps the benefits of reading

We all have good and bad habits. 

But, how can we ensure we only encourage the formation of good habits in our children, such as reading regularly?  

First, we need to understand what a habit actually is. 

Only then can we begin to transform our child’s habits into lasting behaviours.

What is a habit?

A habit is a usual behaviour, that according to the Oxford Learners Dictionary ‘you do often and almost without thinking’.

New York Times bestselling author, James Clear, defines habits as ‘the small decisions you make and actions you perform everyday’. 

What we do repeatedly forms who we are, what we believe and our personality traits. Therefore, forming positive habits in our children not only shapes who they are in childhood, but who they become as adults.

How are habits formed?

The human brain performs multiple functions at once. Like a computer, it prioritises tasks based on how often they’re performed or how much importance they’ve been assigned. 

After essential survival functions are prioritised, such as breathing, pumping blood and sending signals such as hunger, our brains turn to the familiar. 

These are the things we do regularly but aren’t crucial for survival. For instance, you may instinctively brush your teeth without thinking about it. Or look at your phone instinctively during ad breaks. 

Our brain streamlines these processes, so that we begin to do them automatically. This is how both good and bad habits are formed.

The 3 R’s

Psychologists agree that there are three fundamental steps to take when attempting to form new habits. These are: 

  •  Reminder 
  •  Routine 
  •  Reward 

Reminder

This is something that triggers the intended behaviour. It reminds you to take a specific action. For instance, think of your wake-up alarm. This alarm wakes you up in the morning so that you can get the kids ready for school on time.

Routine

This is the action you take – the actual behaviour. In this case, it’s the act of getting out of bed on time, which you do every morning.

Reward

The benefit you gain from doing the behaviour is your reward. For example, that first uninterrupted coffee of the day. Or when you’ve managed to get a parking space to drop your kids off safely at school.

The science behind habit forming

Here comes the science bit… 

Habits are formed in the area of your brain called the basal ganglia. Through repetition, this area becomes stimulated. 

Thus, the more often you perform a certain action, that action or behaviour becomes a pattern. This behavioural pattern eventually becomes etched into the neural pathways in our brain.

Forming good reading habits in your children

If you’ve read our previous articles, you’ll know there are multiple benefits of reading for your child’s development. 

Forming good reading habits is fundamental on the path to success, but it can be difficult.  

The Readingmate app is an easy way to help children form positive reading habits that will motivate them to succeed. It utilises the aforementioned 3 R’s to encourage and inspire a love of reading.

Reminding your child to read

A reminder is a critical part of forming new habits. A good reminder makes it easy to start by encoding new behaviours. 

The Readingmate app uses reminders which you can set yourself, giving you control over your child’s reading level. After all, you know your child best. 

Setting up a visible reminder can make it much easier to change behaviours. It lessens the need to find the motivation or effort to do something. 

You don’t need to rely on your memory which makes it seem like less of a chore. This is how scheduling time to read can often feel for children and young people. And of course, we all hate chores.

Introducing regular reading routines

A routine doesn’t have to be rigid, but it does have to be consistent. 

For example, reading does need to happen at the same time every day. 

You may already have an established bedtime routine. It may consist of dinnertime, bathtime, getting changed for bed then of course, bedtime. 

You can integrate reading into their existing routine by slotting in some reading time before they go to sleep.

Sometimes bedtime happens at a different time, but the order of the routine remains the same. Whether 5pm or 7pm, your child will eventually know that what follows getting changed into their pyjamas, is reading.

Each child is different

Each child develops at their own pace and will approach reading from different levels and established abilities. At Readingmate, we want to close this gap in reading abilities.  

Our app gives children the power to make their own reading choices and go at their own pace. So, it encourages reading routines based on the needs of each child. 

This approach means that children will be less likely to become frustrated and give up. 

As such, Readingmate can be a great tool for children with Special Educational Needs and/or Disabilities (SEND). It’s also ideal for those with English as an Additional Language (EAL). Moreover, it could benefit children who are lacking in confidence too.

Monitoring your child’s performance

When you start any habit, how you perform shouldn’t matter. The same goes for you child when they begin their reading journey. 

Focus on what they have achieved already. The Readingmate app makes this easy by logging their reading activity and progress.  

Your child can build up to the level of performance you want for them once their initial behaviour becomes consistent. Remember, consistency and routine are how habits are formed.

Encouragement through reward

A sure-fire way to inspire good reading habits is through praise and reward. According to an article by Psychology Today, incentives and rewards positively affect behaviours

By nature, humans want to continue to do things that make them feel good. And of course, your child is no exception.

By rewarding regular reading habits, rather than the number of pages read, the Readingmate app encourages continued reading. 

We’ve included milestones and badges for different reading achievements. These are based on  your child’s reading behaviours rather than their ability or level. 

Reading can be fun!

Over time, your child will come to associate the activity of reading with reward. And our recommendations based on their favourite stories and characters will make them more likely to enjoy their next book.  

Reading will become a fun activity that sparks joy. Ultimately, this is what we all want for our kids – for them to develop and be the best they can, while enjoying themselves.

Benefits of reading habits

There are so many benefits to forming good reading habits in your children

In fact, reading in general helps children develop language. It provides a firm foundation for literacy skills which is transferable to all subjects. 

Not only that, but reading promotes imagination, fosters curiosity and aids critical thinking skills.  These are all crucial for success; and who doesn’t want their kids to succeed?

Summary

In conclusion, while they’re beneficial, forming good reading habits can sometimes require an extra push. 

This where the Readingmate app can help. Our app makes it easier for your children to form habits and encourages regular readers with rewards. 

We’re providing parents with an easy to use tool to boost their child’s learning. 

Eventually, we hope that choosing to pick up a book will become a habit for your child. A habit akin to automatically washing their hands after using the toilet or putting on their seatbelt.

After all, good habits are even better if they give our children the opportunity to stay safe or be successful.

Join the Readingmate community and start forming good habits for your children today!

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