We live in a streaming world: it’s easier than ever to throw on a TV show or movie when we’re not sure what to do with our kids. But reading a story to a young person can provide benefits that last a lifetime. In a modern age where we read less and less, it’s good to remember how incredible and life-changing reading can be. Let’s explore some of the positives associated with reading to kids.
Building skills: When kids listen to stories, poems, and songs, they build language skills without even knowing it. Concepts like sentence structure, grammar, and syntax are silently transmitted through the reciting of a story or poem. I remember hearing Robert Frost’s “The Road Not Taken” as a kid and though I didn’t know at the time that I was reading an ABAAB rhyme scheme, vague concepts like this made sense later when I studied English in college. It’s amazing how skills can be obtained even when you’re just reading because you like the rhythm of something. Consider a book like Dr. Seuss’ Green Eggs and Ham:” in this deceptively simple rhyming story, kids are being exposed to parallel structure, alliteration, and diction, concepts that will be important later in their academic careers as well as in their long-term ability to write clearly and effectively.
Expanding worldview: When I was old enough to read on my own, I read Treasure Island and was introduced to an exciting world of pirates and life on the seas. A few years later when I read A Separate Peace, I learned about coming-of-age, war, and loss of innocence. While very different concepts, I consider both important parts of my reading life. As I grew up, the content of the books I read changed and matured as I did; through the stories’ transitions, my worldview and understanding of life expanded. Reading is a door into the stages of life and the human experience and can help kids to understand a confusing world.
Fostering creativity: I can remember wanting to write my own book when I was about six years old. Undoubtedly, I was inspired by the books that had been read to me. Hearing stories and becoming involved in narrative adventures breeds creativity and inspires young people. How many kids imagine themselves in Hogwarts as they read Harry Potter, with all imagery of learning how to be a wizard? From stories and the pages of books can come imaginative play, pretending, and an all-important sense of wonder and creativity.
Laying a foundation: I’m pretty sure that had my Mom not read to me when I was a child, I would not have developed such a fondness for books and reading later in life. I hold many of the books I was read dear and am proud to have them on my bookshelf. Modeling behavior is so important for kids, and the more we show them the wonder of reading, the more they will make it a part of their own lives.
Life lessons: Reading should be a part of every person’s education, not only academically but also, personally. When my Mom read me The Story of Ferdinand, (a personal favorite to this day), I learned the virtues of non-violence, and ways to deal with bullies. She read me that book over thirty years ago and I never forgot its message. If that doesn’t speak to the power of reading to young people, nothing does.
Written by Phil Lane