“Today a reader, tomorrow a leader.” – Margaret Fuller
How important is it to be a reader in this world of instant information? Does sitting with your child and playing computer games produce the same outcome as sitting with them and reading a book? Does it matter that you have never sat with your child and read to them before they have attended school?
More research is coming forward to indicate it does matter that a child is not read to or encouraged to pick up a book, even to scribble in.
Sitting with book in hand and child on lap allows them to see symbols, words and images. Moving your finger, leading their eyes along symbols of words and from words to images, allows little ones to make connections, at their own pace, with these symbols, words and images. Their vocabulary grows.
They may not yet be attending kindergarten or pre-school, but you are already preparing their mind for life-long learning. You have been helping their brain develop neuro-pathways that will assist with learning when they attend pre-school and beyond. Now, not every child will be ready to make these connections, just as not every child is ready to attend school at the tender age of five. These things happen when the child is ready, and you can’t rush it.
Spending this quality time with your toddler is crucial to early childhood development. Andre Biemiller, a Canadian psychologist, studied the consequences of lower vocabulary levels in young children. The results of his studies indicated that children entering kindergarten in the bottom 25% of vocabulary generally remained behind the other children. By year six they were approximately three years behind their peers in vocabulary, reading and comprehension.
But what of teenagers? Is this a time for them to stop reading and focus on computer coding and super hero movies? Jonathon Douglas, of the National Literacy Trust (U.K.) doesn’t think so in his 2013 article “The Importance of Instilling a Need to Read”
“Teens who choose to pick up a book for pleasure are more likely to succeed in life.”
His article intimates that reading for pleasure reveals a predisposition for life-long learning which he suggests explains increased social mobility. If life-long reading is one indicator for success then how may you encourage your moody teenage, or pre-teen, to put down the games console in exchange for the printed word?
We are unlikely to read material that does not interest us, so to encourage a reading for pleasure environment in your household you should supply reading material (graphic novels, magazines, fiction and non-fiction novels) that will be of interest to your teenager. Hopefully, the school library will also have a supply of reading material that falls outside the curriculum.
What about reading on the internet? Research has shown that we adopt different styles of reading for different formats. Internet reading tends to lead to short concentration skimming rather than in-depth absorption.
Over the past few decades, authors have been producing extraordinary books written with the adolescent in mind. These books deal with issues teenagers may be exposed to or experiencing in their life and allows them to deal with them from the safety of the book.
This is not to say teenagers should not be exposed to the classics of Dickens and the like, but there are books more relevant to them and their time. The classics may come later in life with the pleasure of reading.
Exploring the world through books, gathering information and understanding develops a solid core of knowledge upon which to build ethics, morality and character that becomes the young adult.