It’s no secret that reading is important – reading is, of course, required to understand pretty much every other topic in the world. It is one of the first things children are taught when they enter school and is something that they will practise for the rest of their lives. Though we all know that reading for practicality is a crucial skill, sometimes the benefits of reading for pleasure are forgotten, particularly in today’s age of technology.
Reading for pleasure? Who has time for that?!
With so many subjects for your child to master and an ever-increasing pile of homework for them to complete, ensuring your child is reading for pleasure can seem both daunting and perhaps not all that important. Nowadays, there are all kinds of leisure activities for your child to enjoy once they get home from school and finish their homework: extra curricular activities such as sports and music, iPads, youtube… the list goes on. It’s no wonder that settling down with a book is often the furthest thing from the minds of children.
In fact, it is not just children that are beginning to move away from reading for pleasure. In the US, about a quarter of adults (24%) say that they haven’t read a book in whole or even in part in the past year and in the UK almost 4 million adults admit to never reading for pleasure. Most adults surveyed cited a lack of time as the reason why they are reluctant to pick up a book. Our lives are becoming increasingly chaotic, so this reaction is natural.
So why should your child be reading? What is so important about reading for pleasure?
The importance of reading
The benefits of reading are countless, particularly for children who are learning to speak English. As children read, they will undoubtedly encounter words that they have not seen before, and this is an excellent way to broaden their vocabulary. Children can keep a mini-dictionary and practise using these new words in their own writing too. English has an unbelievable number of words, and even as a native English speaker I am always discovering new vocabulary whilst engrossed in a book. Although English learners can feel daunted by this expanse of words, by discovering them through private reading they take ownership of their own learning, building independence and self confidence.
The aforementioned benefits can be obtained by reading both fiction and non-fiction. Many of my students express that they prefer reading non-fiction as they feel that they are gaining practical knowledge whilst reading. They tell me that they have no desire to read fiction and would prefer instead to just stick to non-fiction texts for our lessons.
Studies have shown that, along with the above listed benefits, readers of fiction also have an improved sense of empathy, and an active and creative imagination. Reading about the lives of others helps children and adults alike to understand the world from different perspectives. Children who read fiction are much more likely to become tolerant and perceptive adults who are open to the world around them.
Fiction can also help encourage reluctant readers. Lovers of fiction will describe to you that drive to know what happens next. Turning the page becomes an urge to know what will happen to your favourite characters, regardless of how difficult it may be to encounter new words or ideas. Reading has fiction lovers sitting on the edge of their seat, the encounter reminiscent of being in a dark cinema screen desperate to know the ending of a film. This pleasurable experience is what drives fiction readers to pick up a new book time and time again. As a child who read constantly, the characters in my favourite books were my best friends and I was totally engrossed in their lives. You couldn’t have stopped me from reading about them if you tried!
How to encourage your young reader
- Lead by example
Children look to their parents to be their role models. If we read for pleasure and our children see us reading, we show them that reading is a good thing. If you don’t have one already, build your own library shelf or reading corner in the house and encourage your children to build a book collection over time. Of course, reading needn’t just be a tool to encourage your children to pick up a book themselves. Studies show that reading for 20 minutes a day can help adults to relieve stress, ease mental fatigue and help with healthy sleep patterns.
- Give them freedom
When I was a child, I loved going to the library with my mum to pick out my own book. I was allowed time to myself to browse through and choose something for myself. It can be tempting for adults to persuade children to read certain titles, but they will enjoy it so much more if it is something they have chosen themselves. If libraries are scarce where you are, giving your child some time to themselves when in a book shop can help them develop their own personal reading style.
- Ritualise it
Make reading a part of your child’s daily routine. If they are very young, you could read to them at a set time every day. Remember to have a sense of humour about it, do the silly voices, actions, even costumes if you’re feeling really brave! Your children will connect reading with happy memories. If your child is older, perhaps you encourage them to set aside this time independently, maybe in a particular part of the house like a special chair or a reading room.
- Gift it and personalise it
One of the best gifts I received when I was very young was a personalised book for Christmas. One of the main characters of the book was even named after me! I was so excited and couldn’t wait to read it. By gifting books to your child, you are showing them that reading is something to be cherished, and adding their name makes it special for them.
Encouraging your child to read doesn’t need to be difficult. Often the simplest advice is the best. Give them access to books, a good place to read and show them that reading can be both pleasurable and beneficial. The benefits of reading will enrich your child’s life, and a love of reading is something they will never forget. For more information of how to inspire your young reader, send us a message!