Reading is our Superpower

Reading is our Superpower

Dear Reader by Cathy Rentzenbrink

Child reading a bookWe all know how important reading is for children.

Learning to read is what they go to school for, isn’t it?

Well actually – if your child has not been introduced to books and stories well before they reach nursery age you are massively disadvantaging them from having a good start at school. There are many studies demonstrating the value of reading to children and exposing them to books from as early an age as you can. It helps to develop their vocabulary, their concentration, their understanding of words and the world around them. Your child’s brain is like a sponge which absorbs so much more than we realise – language included.

“Reading for pleasure unlocks academic success across the curriculum. A child who is read to at age 1-2 scores higher in reading, spelling, grammar, and numeracy skills at age 8-11.” From benefits-of-reading - booktrust-2023.pdf

A few years ago I had a visit from a P1 class from a local estate in Belfast. The teacher told me how much they loved stories being read to them and how attentive they were. During the visit I asked the class how many of them had stories read to them at bedtime – and no hands went up. I then asked them how many of them had DVDs in their bedrooms – and all their hands went up. So it transpired that at bedtime they all went to sleep with a film or programme on a screen. I suppose nowadays it would be an Ipad or tablet. The teacher told me that many of the children would have no books of their own at home at all. No wonder they were so thirsty for stories at school! Access to books and reading from an early age is essential to give all children equal opportunities from the outset. We would urge all parents to bring their child to the Library to borrow books over the Summer holidays to help them maintain their reading levels during the break and to encourage the concept of reading for fun and enjoyment – not just as homework from school.

I have also heard someone recently deriding the use of reading for escapism, an active switching off from the pressures of daily life by getting immersed in the fantasy world of fiction. This was likened to an ostrich hiding its head in the sand. My view though, and that of many studies, is that reading fiction switches off the part of your brain that worries and gets anxious, and if anything can reduce the stress levels in our bodies then surely that is a good thing. It also encourages empathy, developing the part of us that sympathises with the plight of others, and appreciating how it would feel to walk in someone else’s shoes. This recent study lays it out clearly :- Benefits of Reading Books: For Your Physical and Mental Health (healthline.com)

Reading can also trigger our imagination and thought patterns – we transpose words and concepts into an imaginary world, a process which to me is like magic, fuelled by the words on a page we create our own picture of the events described and characters involved. This is why we are so often disappointed by screen representations of our favourite books, and why I think it is so important to read the book yourself first before you are influenced by someone else’s interpretation of a story.

If you are still not convinced that reading is our superpower then check out Dear Reader by Cathy Rentzenbrink.

Dear Reader by Cathy Rentzenbrink

 

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