The opportunities for children’s entertainment are seemingly endless today. Whether it’s games on mobile phones and tablets, social media, TV and even virtual reality headsets, all these tools offer great ways for your kids to learn vital skills and find out about the world around them.
Does this mean reading stories in ‘old fashioned’ paper books is no longer so important to prioritise? We’d beg to differ!
Reading books offers your children tons of benefits – we’ve outlined five key reasons that reading for pleasure is still important today. And we’re not alone in thinking so – recent research showed that nine in ten parents think reading books is just as important in the digital age as it ever was.
So, here are five reasons why reading for pleasure is crucial for your child’s development.
1. Books Improve Creative Thinking
Whenever your child reads a book, they have to look at a piece of paper, take in the words on the page, and construct an imaginary universe in their mind, featuring the characters about whom they are reading. After they’ve finished reading, they can then even add-in characters of their own and further develop this imaginary world – perhaps even playing it out!
It’s this mental engagement which is so valuable – it’s about being active, rather than just passively absorbing content. Compare it to simply watching something on a screen. While adaptations of great stories can be watched as films and programmes on television (from Beatrix Potter to Peter Pan), the words on the page have already been brought to life by someone else. When they are watching an imaginary world on screen, your child has less need to use their own independent thought to bring this world to life. Reading is a real work-out for the mind, encouraging lots of parts of the brain to engage – much more than passive screen gazing.
2. Reading Can Reduce Stress
School can be stressful for children, especially when it comes round to exam time. It’s perfectly natural to want some ‘down time’ and escape into a fantasy world, and books offer a great way of doing this. Whether they’re reading about colourful dragons taking off from mountains and flying through beautifully described worlds or stories about adventurous kids fighting crime, books give them an escape from the pressures of school life.
And, they do this in a more genuinely relaxing way than an alternative such as a video game – where there’s always the possibility of getting notifications about school work or notifications from their friends on social media. Reading is a genuine escape.
3. An opportunity for extra-curricular learning (without them realising it)
Reading gives your child a huge amount of extra-curricular learning without it feeling like they’re at school. Getting their noses in a book lets them learn about history, science, geography and even politics or philosophy – often while learning about topics that the school curriculum would never cover.
The varied knowledge about the world around them which your child can gain from reading means they become more well-rounded individuals. And - who knows? - it could even make them more employable when they get older – or at least have a better idea of what they want to study later in life.
4. Expands Your Child’s Vocabulary
A varied vocabulary is a fantastic tool for your child to have – not only does it generally make them more articulate; it also means they can use words more effectively in exams. Reading will enable your child to wow examiners with their syntax in English exams in particular, but can also help them express themselves when, say, evaluating the consequences of famous battles in their History exams.
The wider your child’s vocabulary, the more access they will have to the best marks available. Reading is almost certain to improve their exam performance both now and later in life.
5. Improves Their Writing Skills
Good reading leads to good writing. If you regularly encounter clever turns of phrase or ways of expressing things on the page, it’s much easier to imitate these when it comes to your own writing. The same goes for your children. If they enjoy reading and writing, they will become better at both, and reap the benefits of being able to express themselves more clearly and concisely as a result.
These are just a few of the many, many reasons why your children should start reading as much as possible, as early as possible.