“So what’s the big deal about reading?” I have sometimes been asked. “Why is everyone trying to get my kids to read?”
The most logical answer to these questions is that we live in a literate world. To maintain a high quality of life, children must become proficient readers. To land a decent job and function in a world where everything is written down, it is crucial that our kids master written language. But reading also does much more.
Literacy helps children understand the world around them by broadening the range of experiences they might learn from. For example, a child may never know what it’s like to grow up in the African bush, but if she reads Gloria Whelan’s Listening for Lions, she will come away with a small measure of understanding of the challenges that have faced that continent. And of course a child can never have first-hand knowledge of history he didn’t live through, but if he reads Christopher Paul Curtis’s The Watsons Go to Birmingham, he will experience some of the racial violence that rocked America in the 1960’s. This collective writing down of experiences allows an exchange of ideas and viewpoints not possible otherwise. It permits children to build on the knowledge of others. It prompts the growth of intellect. It keeps a mind moving in new directions.
In addition, ample research has linked reading to success in school. Children who read regularly have increased cognitive development, verbal skills and reading comprehension. They acquire a wider vocabulary. They develop higher reasoning skills, more effective writing styles and increased critical thinking skills. Simply put, reading makes a person smarter, and that can undoubtedly lead to greater success in life.
So now the question becomes, “How can I turn my kids into readers?” We’ll tackle that one next time.