Feb 25,2020

Why we should still encourage kids to read books in 2020

We know what some of you might think – this article will be all about that “phone bad, book good” philosophy. But it’s not all that simple. We do understand that throwing away all gadgets and giving a child an old edition of Winnie the Pooh might not make the kid super happy (not that Winnie the Pooh is a bad book, I totally love it and recommend it). So let me just say it – Yes, phones can be useful – there are plenty of educational videos and games out there that could be beneficial for kids, but let’s give good old books a chance too. They’ve been around for quite some time and yet they still are pretty cool. If you are not into paper though, e-books are there to save the day.

First let’s talk about read-aloud experiences for very young kids. There is nothing more beautiful and magical for a kid than listening to a fairytale (or an exciting pirate adventure – tastes differ) before going to sleep. Let’s not take this wonderful tradition away from kids. Listening to the stories is an important step in developing children’s imagination as well as their first chance to fall in love with books. Numerous studies, including the one conducted by Kathryn L.Fletcher, have proved that reading early picture books with children significantly improves kids’ language development. The other important thing here is to have small discussions after read-aloud sessions – this will enhance children’s logical thinking as well as give an opportunity to share emotions about the story 😊

As the kids grow older, it is important to encourage them to read by themselves. There is no universal age at which kids should start learning to read, but there are some quite universal strategies that can be used to help children learn faster – such as word cards and using nursery rhymes to build phonemic knowledge. Learning to read or to “decode” text seems like the most difficult part of the process (after that all you have to do is have fun with exciting novels, right?) – and yet a number of studies point out that children’s motivation to read often declines starting from elementary school and reaches the lowest point at around grade 10. So it is important to give encouragement and help kids form positive reading attitudes even after they went to primary school and after they learned to read.

In 1970s The Bradford Book Flood Experiment was conducted. During the experiment new books were made available to middle school students and children’s eagerness to read new books was tested. While this experiment was done years ago, the findings are still interesting to this day. Turns out that one of the most important factors that affected whether or not children became avid readers was the teacher (other aspects included sociological factors and the arrangement of books). Moral of the story? Teachers are important (not that we didn’t know it before, but that was a nice reminder).

Jeffrey Wilhelm, the author of the book “Reading Unbound: Why Kids Need to Read What They Want and Why We Should Let Them” has pointed out the importance of pleasure reading as it instigates cognitive growth as well as social mobility. To put it simply – let the kids read what they like! Even if it is just a small article in a magazine for kids. Beyond all the psychological benefits that pleasure reading gives, it’s also just a great form of entertainment. It’s also worthy to note that some kids may actually prefer reading non-fiction – as long as it is related to their hobbies and interests.

And if social mobility and cognitive growth is still not enough to encourage you to encourage kids to read (excuse the repetition), then here is the life-changing fact – apparently book lovers live longer. And, of course, reading helps reducing stress and oftentimes makes readers more empathetic (this depends on the type of literature, I have to add).
Before you go on checking some other article or perhaps taking a nap let me also quickly tell you some tips on how to motivate struggling readers (this advice is mostly for older kids who are able to read by themselves).
1) Choosing hi/lo (high interest, low vocabulary) books. Even though reading books with more advanced vocabulary is what one should be eventually aiming at, it’s still good to start with the books that have high readability: lots of pictures, many simple dialogs and probably even some funny fonts to keep children engaged. Some of the books like that could include Rumple Buttercup and Lunch Lady series.

2) Now we come to the point which might seem obvious to some but let me just say it – Book series!! To be honest with you, as a kid I wasn’t too much of a bookworm myself, but book series can get anyone hooked and excited – even young me who was way too busy playing with a ball and coming up with creative dance choreographies. Here are just a few book series suggestions: Harry Porter (obviously!), Warriors (perfect choice for cat lovers), How to train your dragon (my personal favorite as a kid) and The Diaries of a Wimpy Kid (relatively new book series so I don’t know too much about it but apparently everyone reads it and loves it).
3) And last but not least – let the kids see you read. Picking up good habits from adults is one of the easiest ways to motivate future bookworms. Keep that in mind – you can talk about reading all you want but if you are not reading yourself, no one will believe you.
Well, that should pretty much sum it up. Thanks for reading this article, hope you enjoyed it. Now please make sure to encourage kids to read something too 😊

Lada

Bibliography:
1) “Reading Unbound: Why Kids Need to Read What They Want and Why We Should Let Them” by Jeffrey Wilhelm
2) Information about encouraging struggling young readers:
https://www.readingrockets.org/article/hooking-struggling-readers-using-books-they-can-and-want-read
3) “Raising Kids Who Read: What Parents and Teachers Can Do” By Daniel T. Willingham
4) “Teaching our children to read” by Bill Honig
5) “Picture book reading with young children: A conceptual framework” by Kathryn L.Fletcher
6) Information about why reading matters: https://www.dltk-kids.com/articles/whyreadingmatters.htm
7) New Study Finds Book Lovers Live Longer: https://www.bookbub.com/blog/new-study-finds-bookworms-live-longer
8) “The Joy and Power of Reading A Summary of Research and Expert Opinion” By Lois Bridges