Books are the quietest and most constant of friends; they are the most accessible and wisest of counselors, and the most patient of teachers. – Charles W. Elio
Reading is a crucial element of every child’s education, yet when our children begin struggling with the subject, many parents and kid’s alike get frustrated and give up. All too easily they accept that they’re just not that interested in reading or worse, “don’t see the point.”
This can be especially common when the parent themselves never formed a strong bond to reading when they were growing up. But reading skills, and moreover, a love for reading, have so many benefits to minds of all ages.
Before you decide that reading just isn’t your child’s strong suit (or maybe your own!), consider the following benefits of reading, both now and in the future.
Benefits during childhood
Reading develops and expands language skills. Even before a child is ready to read on their own, children begin developing critical language and enunciation skills by listening to others speak and read. Time spent reading to your child helps them by reinforcing the basic sounds that form language. As that child grows up and begin reading on their own, the more they read the more words they will gain exposure to. This enhances not only their comprehension of reading, but their everyday vocabulary making them more article and well-spoken. Reading books is also vital for learning new languages which allow non-native speakers gain exposure to words used in context.
Reading exercises your brain. Reading to the brain is what physical activity is to the body: it’s exercise! The more you exercise your brain, the better it gets at completing the task. Seems common sense, but many find it difficult to push through the initial phases of learning where they are still struggling with basic comprehension. The good news is: practice really does make perfect, at least when it comes to reading. The more a child reads, the better they will get at it. And no, TV, not even the best educational shows, are as good at exercising for your brain as reading.
Reading improves concentration. When children regularly practice sitting still and focusing on a story, they develop the ability to do this for longer periods.
Reading improves memory. Many don’t realize that when they are reading a book, they are actually practicing using their memory a lot. To understand the story, you have to be able to remember an assortment of character names, their backgrounds, motivations, history, and personality traits, as well as the various arcs and sub-plots that weave together the larger story.
Reading improves analytical thinking skills. If you’ve ever read a book and found yourself predicting what could happen or who could have been responsible for some mystery, you’ve experienced how reading can challenge your critical thinking skills. Not to mention the analytical skills you need in order to critique the plot, writing, character development, and storyline.
Reading exposes us to different parts of the world. Through reading, children are able to learn about people, places, and events outside their own set of personal experiences. They are exposed to ways of life, ideas, and beliefs about the world which may be different from or even challenge those around them. Reading opens the door for discovering new passions and interests and further educating themselves in anything they are interested in.
Reading improves your imagination. When we read, our brains translate words into pictures. We’re imaging not only how scenes look, but how the characters feel. We connect these images to our own experiences and ask ourselves how we would feel in a similar situation.
Reading develops empathy. When we use our imaginations to understand how characters are feeling, we are also engaging with our sense of empathy. As with reading, the more we practice empathy, the better we get at being able to identify with and feel with others.
Reading makes kids do better at all aspects of school. The benefits of reading aren’t limited to subjects like English and history. Children who read tend to do better at all subjects, and they do better all the way through school. Numerous studies have shown that students who are exposed to reading before preschool are more likely to do well in all facets of formal education. Think about it, if a student struggles to put together words and sentences, how can he/she be expected to grasp other subjects written out and explained in texts books as they discover new subjects?
Reading is fundamental in developing a good self image. Nonreaders or poor readers often have lower opinions of themselves and their abilities than their literate classmate counterparts. This can be isolating, discourage kids from learning altogether, and consequently, behavioral problems can surface.
Reading is a fun form of entertainment. Aside from the benefits to performance, reading itself is really fun. Immersing yourself in a story, feeling suspense as the storyline unfolds, and getting emotionally attached to the characters you watch develop are all parts of reading that keep avid readers come back for more.
Benefits in adulthood
Reading is fundamental to functioning in modern society. Many adults today lack crucial literacy skills. This can prevent them from properly performing a number of important, everyday tasks that are expected of adults, including: reading/understanding instructions on a medicine bottle, acquiring/filling out applications, reading warning signs on the road, or even following directions on a map. Day-to-day activities that many people take for granted become a source of frustration, shame, and fear.
Reading is vital to finding a good job. Most of today’s well-paying jobs require reading as a basic skill to properly perform the functions of the job. Instructions, reports, and memos all need to be read, understood, and properly applied. Poor reading skills can slow or even halt your professional development.
Readers enjoy art and do good things in the world. A study by the NEA found that people who read for pleasure are many times more likely than those who do not to visit museums and attend concerts, and almost three times as likely to perform volunteer and charity work. Readers are more active participants in the world around them, and do more for the well-being of others.
Reading makes you more interesting. With all the knowledge that readers acquire from books, they tend to have more subjects they can participate in during conversations, both casual and academic. This also allows you to engage with a wider variety of people and conversations, which in turn improve your knowledge and conversation skills.
Reading reduces stress. Many studies have shown that reading reduces your stress levels. In fact, in one study done by consultancy firm Mindlab International at the University of Sussex, they found that subjects only needed to read silently for as little as six minutes to begin experiencing a slower heart rate and less tension in the muscles.
Reading builds new brain connections and strengthens existing ones. Studies have shown that staying mentally stimulated through reading and similar mentally challenging activities can slow the progress of (or possibly prevent) cognitive diseases such as Alzheimer’s and Dementia.
Reading is a crucial skill that better prepares you for professional success and personal happiness. Never be afraid to reach out for additional help if you or your child are struggling with literacy skills. The extra steps you take to improve them will create a lifetime of greater opportunities.