4 02 2011
If You'd Like to Know Why Reading Matters
Here Are Some of the Reasons Why Reading Is So
Important for Children
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 being read to ?
Does reading matter ?
The purpose of this article is to say that, yes, it’s true,
reading really is important, and that there are some solid
reasons why that is so. Let’s begin with the practical
benefits and then move on to the less tangible rewards of a
life filled with reading.
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. The 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
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 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, magazines or websites,
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
As mentioned above, reading opens doors – doors to
factual information about any subject on earth, practical or
theoretical. Given the wealth of available resources such as
Internet, libraries, schools and bookstores, if children can
read well and 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, access to all of the
great minds and ideas of the past and present. It truly is
Through books, 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
novels 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.
Through stories and novels 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. For example, a parent or grandparent
reading a story aloud, whether from a traditional printed
book or from an ebook, can be a great opportunity for adult
and child to share some quiet, relaxed quality time together
away from the rush and stresses of the business of daily
living. They share a few minutes of precious time, plus they
share the ideas that are contained in the story. In addition,
older children can be encouraged to read aloud to younger
ones as a means of enhancing their relationship.
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 Improve Hand-Eye Coordination
It may sound funny, but ebooks can be a way for children
to improve their fine motor skills and their hand-eye
coordination, as they click around a childfriendly website or
click the backward and forward buttons of online story
pages. They may also be picking up valuable computer
skills that they’ll need in school and later in life.
Reading Can Provide Children with Plenty of Good, Clean
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. They allow children to dream and
may give them a good start on the road to viewing reading
as a lifelong source of pleasure; so read to your young
children every day.
Inspire your older children to read. Give them access to
plenty of reading material that they’ll enjoy and discuss it
with them. Sample everything – traditional printed books and
ebooks on Internet, classic children’s novels and fairy tales,
as well as more modern stories.
If a child wants to hear the same story over and over
again, don’t worry about it. Children take comfort from the
familiarity and predictability of a beloved story that they know
by heart. There’s no harm in that. Reread old favorites and,
at the same time, introduce your children to new stories.
Your child’s mind and heart have room for both.
So Reading Really Does Matter After All
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.
Nurture it in your children. Make the most of all the
resources that are available and waiting for you: printed
books, online books, magazines and so forth. Encourage
follow-up activities involving creative writing skills and the
arts, as well, so that your children can reflect upon or
expand on what they’ve absorbed and, at the same time,
develop their own creativity. 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.
Barbara Freedman-De Vito has spent many years as a
children’s librarian, teacher, professional storyteller,
puppeteer, author and artist. She now writes, illustrates and
publishes childsafe animated stories and fairy tales for
children, which are sold through her publishing company,
Baby Bird Productions. Please visit
http://www.babybirdproductions.com to see her catalog of
fun, colorful children’s books as well as clothing and gift
items decorated with artwork from the stories. The site also
provides free advice for parents on helping children do their
best in both their schoolwork and in expressing their
creativity, as well as a free list of suggestions for creative
reading related children’s activities, free children’s games
and activity pages, and free teacher worksheets.