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If You’d Like To Know Why Reading Matters

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Here Are Some of the Reasons Why Reading Is So

Important for Children

Why Do We Tell Children to Read?

We’re always telling children that books and reading are

good for them, but have we ever really thought about why

that’s true? Exactly what do older children get out of reading

novels? What do younger kids get from being read to?

Does reading matter?

The purpose of this article is to say that, yes, it’s true,

reading really is important, and that there are some solid

reasons why that is so. Let’s begin with the practical

benefits and then move on to the less tangible rewards of a

life filled with reading.

Books Help Children Develop Vital Language Skills

Reading is an important skill that needs to be developed

in children. Not only is it necessary for survival in the world

of schools and (later on) universities, but in adult life as

well. The ability to learn about new subjects and find helpful

information on anything from health problems and

consumer protection to more academic research into

science or the arts depends on the ability to read.

Futurologists used to predict the death of the printed word

but, ironically, Internet has made reading more and more a

part of people’s daily lives. The paperless society is a myth.

The computer’s ability to process and analyze data means

that endless variations on reports and other types of

documents can be and are generated. Internet, itself an

enormous new source of information and recreation, is

based on the humble written word. To effectively utilize the

web and judge the authenticity and value of what is found

there, both reading and critical thinking skills are of prime

importance.

The more children read, the better they become at

reading. It’s as simple as that. The more enjoyable the

things they read are, the more they’ll stick with them and

develop the reading skills that they’ll need for full access to

information in their adult lives. Reading should be viewed

as a pleasurable activity – as a source of entertaining tales

and useful and interesting factual information.

The more young children are read to, the greater their

interest in mastering reading. Reading out loud exposes

children to proper grammar and phrasing. It enhances the

development of their spoken language skills, their ability to

express themselves verbally.

Reading, by way of books, magazines or websites,

exposes kids to new vocabulary. Even when they don’t

understand every new word, they absorb something from

the context that may deepen their understanding of it the

next time the word is encountered. When parents read

aloud to children, the children also hear correct

pronunciation as they see the words on the page, even if

they can’t yet read the words on their own.

Reading Can Open Up New Worlds and Enrich Children’s

Lives

As mentioned above, reading opens doors – doors to

factual information about any subject on earth, practical or

theoretical. Given the wealth of available resources such as

Internet, libraries, schools and bookstores, if children can

read well and if they see reading as a source of information,

then for the rest of their lives they will have access to all of

the accumulated knowledge of mankind, access to all of the

great minds and ideas of the past and present. It truly is

magic !

Through books, children can also learn about people and

places from other parts of the world, improving their

understanding of and concern for all of humanity. This, in

turn, contributes towards our sense that we truly live in a

“global village” and may help us bring about a more

peaceful future for everyone. This can happen through

nonfiction but, perhaps even more importantly, reading

novels that are set in other places and time periods can give

children a deeper understanding of others through

identification with individual characters and their plights.

Through stories and novels children can vicariously try out

new experiences and test new ideas, with no negative

consequences in their real lives. They can meet characters

who they’ll enjoy returning to for comforting and satisfying

visits when they reread a cherished book or discover a

sequel. Books also give kids the opportunity to flex their

critical thinking skills in such areas as problem solving, the

concepts of cause and effect, conflict resolution, and

acceptance of responsibility for one’s actions. Mysteries

allow children to follow clues to their logical conclusions

and to try to outguess the author. Even for very young

children, a simple story with a repetitive refrain or a simple

mystery to solve gives a confidence boost. Children can

predict the patterns and successfully solve the riddles.

Children are influenced by and imitate the world around

them. While a steady diet of violent cartoons may have a

detrimental effect on children’s development, carefully

chosen stories and books can have a positive influence on

children, sensitizing them to the needs of others. For

example, books can encourage children to be more

cooperative, to share with others, to be kind to animals, or to

respect the natural environment.

Reading Can Enhance Children’s Social Skills

Although reading is thought of as the quintessential

solitary activity, in certain circumstances reading can be a

socializing activity. For example, a parent or grandparent

reading a story aloud, whether from a traditional printed

book or from an ebook, can be a great opportunity for adult

and child to share some quiet, relaxed quality time together

away from the rush and stresses of the business of daily

living. They share a few minutes of precious time, plus they

share the ideas that are contained in the story. In addition,

older children can be encouraged to read aloud to younger

ones as a means of enhancing their relationship.

At school or at a library story hour, books can bring

children together and can be part of a positive shared

experience. For some preschoolers this may be their

primary opportunity to socialize and to learn how to behave

around other children or how to sit quietly for a group activity.

Make the most of this experience by encouraging children to

talk about what they’ve read or heard.

Reading Can Improve Hand-Eye Coordination

It may sound funny, but ebooks can be a way for children

to improve their fine motor skills and their hand-eye

coordination, as they click around a childfriendly website or

click the backward and forward buttons of online story

pages. They may also be picking up valuable computer

skills that they’ll need in school and later in life.

Reading Can Provide Children with Plenty of Good, Clean

Fun

I’ve saved the most important point for last. Reading can

provide children with endless hours of fun and

entertainment. All of the pragmatic reasons above aren’t at

all necessary to justify reading’s place in children’s lives.

Stories can free up imaginations and open up exciting new

worlds of fantasy or reality. They allow children to dream and

may give them a good start on the road to viewing reading

as a lifelong source of pleasure; so read to your young

children every day.

Inspire your older children to read. Give them access to

plenty of reading material that they’ll enjoy and discuss it

with them. Sample everything – traditional printed books and

ebooks on Internet, classic children’s novels and fairy tales,

as well as more modern stories.

If a child wants to hear the same story over and over

again, don’t worry about it. Children take comfort from the

familiarity and predictability of a beloved story that they know

by heart. There’s no harm in that. Reread old favorites and,

at the same time, introduce your children to new stories.

Your child’s mind and heart have room for both.

So Reading Really Does Matter After All

There are so many ways in which reading continues to

be both a vital skill for children to master, and an important

source of knowledge and pleasure that can last a lifetime.

Nurture it in your children. Make the most of all the

resources that are available and waiting for you: printed

books, online books, magazines and so forth. Encourage

follow-up activities involving creative writing skills and the

arts, as well, so that your children can reflect upon or

expand on what they’ve absorbed and, at the same time,

develop their own creativity. As you help your kids appreciate

the magic of reading, you’ll find that there’s a whole

wonderful world full of children’s literature out there that YOU

can enjoy too.

Barbara Freedman-De Vito ©2004

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Source by Barbara Freedman-De Vito

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