Whether you’re a homeschooling parent or the parent of a child in public or private school, you have a duty to your children. A duty to raise them up to be happy, healthy, productive human beings who can contribute to society in their own unique and individual way.
Sheesh. No pressure.
Breathe; I have a plan.
It’s pretty simple, too, and even realistic. It is this: engender a love of books in your child and create a lifelong learner. How does this help with the lofty goal above? Oh, lovely reader, let me count the ways.
How Reading Creates Lifelong Learners
You already know reading has benefits. Last week I talked about reading aloud, so let’s talk about reading to oneself this week. I mean, one of the benefits of reading aloud to your child is to ensure their love of books, right? So they will read to themselves on their own. Let’s talk about why reading will help your child grow up happy, healthy, productive, unique, and a good contributor to society.
Oh. Yeah. Reading does all that.
Start ’em young
Let’s start out young. When you read to infants, toddlers, preschoolers, you are giving them advantages you may not even realize. According to a 2013 study by the Melbourne Institute of Applied Economic and Social Research, young children who are read to 3-5 times a week are 6 months ahead of their peers when they enter formal schooling. Littles who are read to every day? A year ahead. No kidding. And that advantage stays with them throughout their lives. That’s not just in reading ability–kids who are exposed to reading early are more likely to do well in all forms of formal education.
Reading is a better teacher of of vocabulary and language skills than speech. Literature has a richer language than daily speech. It is not full of the jargon, colloquialisms, and truncated sentences we tend to use to get our points across. Rather, a child who reads is exposed to more complicated, more sophisticated words and sentences, which leads to better communication skills. Wait for it, there is a train happening here that will blow your mind. As your child learns good vocabulary and grammar through reading, she learns how to communicate with both peers and adults, thereby having the ability to express herself well. The ability to express herself well boosts her self-image and confidence so that she can interact with the world from a place of poise and faith in herself. Think about it–when you have access to the words that express exactly what you’re trying to say, you have utter confidence in what you’re saying, which translates into confidence about who you are. Every child deserves to have that.
It helps them write
It should be obvious, but for all the same reasons, reading improves writing skills. Any writing teacher will tell you from the get-go: If you want to write, read, read, read. There are some grammatical skills I possess that I cannot explain to my Littles in class. I literally have to look them up in a grammar book because I don’t know why they are, I just know that They Are. Didn’t learn those skills in school. Picked them up through voracious reading. Yeah yeah.
It gives them confidence
Knowledge is power, and books are full of it. When a child is well-read, he has knowledge to share. People look to him for answers, which also boosts his self-esteem. I have often said I’ve learned more from being a lifelong reader than I learned even in college, and I believe that to be true. My family and friends are often blown away by the amount of trivia knowledge I have. I didn’t learn that at school. I learned it from books. And I’m not going to lie, I love it when someone needs to know about something and they call and say, “Hey, you probably know the answer to this…” It boosts my confidence, for sure. I may not be the smartest person in the world, but chances are I’ve read about it. You can give that to your child. How cool is that? This kind of ties in to my whole chucking the reading level theory, too. When you read to your child or have her read beyond her years, you are increasing her knowledge tenfold.
It exercise their brains
Reading will help improve your child’s memory. Did you know that every new memory you create produces new synapses (pathways in your brain) and strengthens old ones? That means every time your child reads a book and remembers the characters, setting, and plot line, he is exercising his brain and memory. Reading literally improves short-term memory recall. No wonder readers test better than non-readers. Not only that, but as he gets older reading continues to exercise his brain, keeping it active and preventing it from losing its power. This exercise can literally save your child from one day developing Alzheimer’s or dementia (my sister will be so proud of me for putting that in here). You’ve seen those ads for internet games that exercise your brain, right? Reading accomplishes the same thing. And it’s So Much More Fun.
It makes them logical
Reading increases cognitive ability. It leads to better logical thinking skills, like the ability to grasp abstract concepts and recognize cause and effect. If you start them young (in the womb, if you’re anything like me), they will understand cause and effect before they even know it’s a thing. That’s Cool. Reading also improves analytical thinking. Even a picture book mystery and can encourage your child to figure things out. And as she tries to figure it out, she is learning how to analyze a situation and put 2 and 2 together to come up with 4. Whaaaa? Reading helps with math? Hell yeah.
Reading is at the heart of all formal education. Therefore, the better your child reads, the higher his aptitude for learning. You know how to improve your child’s reading? Have him read. Or read to him. Every day. Practice like a football team. Yeah yeah. Reading is going to enhance his concentration skills and discipline, broadening his attention span. All those things are going to make him a better student.
Finally, reading encourages good emotional health. When your child reads a lot of fiction, she is going to see stories told from many different viewpoints. This is going to make her more empathetic–better able to understand where other people are coming from and to make sound and kind decisions based on that empathy. It introduces her to other cultures and places so that her empathy becomes international. It improves her creativity. Reading about a topic in many stories can help her draw on all that information and come up with a new and creative solution to a problem. Reading about a character’s creativity can inspire her to embrace her own unique creative style. Again, we’re back to that self-confidence thing.
Did I cover it all? Happy, healthy, unique, individual, contributor to society? Teaching your child to love reading is as simple as reading to him and letting him see you read on your own. Children are great copycats. When they learn the luxury of reading from you, they are learning so many other good and true things. They truly will grow up with broader minds and better thinking skills. And they will appreciate you for that, no matter how you may screw up in other ways. So teach them to love reading.
And know they love you.
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