“The more that you read, the more things you will know. The more that you learn, the more places you'll go.”
― Dr. Seuss
Reading is to the mind what physical exercise is to the body. Our brain changes and develops in fascinating ways when we read. It is changing, growing and making new connections and patterns. The brain is using all its functions - visual, auditory, language, comprehension, fluency etc. to decode the symbols in front of us and making sense of it. Reading a book expands one’s creativity and makes one curious and ask questions to stimulate further reflection.
In this age of distraction and instant gratification, reading improves brain connectivity, improves calm attention span, focus and concentration. Immersing in a good book brings about a calm and relaxation that is much needed for a child's growth.
In school, children who read better, perform better. Reading from an early age has a significant positive effect on their cognitive skills. The desire to read should be inculcated at a very young age and sustained as the child grows to an adult.
Early Childhood (Toddler and Pre-School) - Children at this age are a curious lot, they learn the most by observing the environment around and connecting it to their daily life. Reading aloud at this age is shown to have huge benefits in terms of social , emotional and intellectual development. Early reader books which encourage a child to touch and feel are natural conversation starters and bring about questions about pictures , words and connections to a child's everyday life. Songs and rhymes in Preschool-age help children learn numbers and counting, shapes, colors, animals and words that vital to their early education. Bringing book characters into playtime will boost creativity and develop independent thinking skills in them. Let them explore different media like pop up books, cloth books, audio stories and videos.
Primary School - As their confidence in reading grows , let them predict what happens in a book before they start reading it, ask questions, teach them to use the dictionary to find meaning of hard words, let them summarize the stories in few sentences. Before they watch a movie like Charlie and the Chocolate Factory or Harry Potter, let them fall in love with the original version- the books. In school, give them a reward when they read at least 15 minutes daily or finish a set of books in a month. Give them a chance to explore the local library and pick up a book they find fascinating and read them - maybe with your help. Set a good example, if a child sees you reading and has a home filled with books, the love for reading will come naturally.
Middle School and Beyond - If the child has been reading all through early childhood and elementary schools, chances are that they are voracious readers by now. Get them a local library membership or a digital library membership and explore different genres and languages. Persuade the children to start reading news, non fiction books and let them offer insights or critiques on them. Schools can host reading challenges where children who read, say 30 age appropriate books in 3 months, will be rewarded well. Technology can help list out age appropriate books, link them to the local library and keep track of what each students reads.
Teachers can encourage classroom discussion sessions where they pick a favorite author and provide their opinions. They can hold interesting debates in classrooms to compare and contrast books with the movies made on them.
Schools should celebrate World Book Day (a UNESCO initiative to promote reading culture). The Book Day can be a fun and inspiring event where children and teaching staff can dress up as a favorite character from book. Various activities , quizzes and rewards for best costume will invoke a desire to read among all ages.
If we are able to nurture the love of reading in children, we would have helped raise competent and confident people ready to tackle this wonderful, complex world.
Here is an infographic which excellently sums up the benefits of Reading in children: