Why Reading Matters

Why Reading Matters
by Barbara Freedman-De Vito

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 reading children's stories and being read to? Does reading matter?
Reading really is important. There are some solid reasons why that is so.
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. A 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 read stories and 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, 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:
Given the wealth of available resources such as the Internet, libraries, schools, and bookstores, children can [learn to] read well. 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. They will have access to all of the great minds and ideas of the past and present. It truly is magic!
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 stories 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.
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. 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 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. 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. 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.

Article Courtesy of ArticleCity