It is what you read when you don’t have to that determines what you will be when you can’t help it – Oscar Wilde
Parrot Street Book Club is all about reading for pleasure. In this digital age, with so many things competing for our kids’ time and attention, we risk raising a generation who can read, but choose not to. Did you know that one in three teenager reads only two books a year or fewer? We have to work harder than ever to inspire a lifelong love of reading in our children, and here are five reasons why it’s worth the effort:
1. Reading opens up a whole new world
For most of our children, the world is still a very small place. The places, people and cultures they are familiar with are relatively few. Fiction is an enormously powerful tool that can help gently to introduce them to the wider world, allowing them to witness and experience what it is like to live in a different country or culture. The best fiction does this in a way that doesn’t over emphasise the differences or alienate them from the world they are reading about, but instead focuses on telling a good story that the reader is absorbed by and feels connected to, regardless of whether it is set in an Amazonian jungle or their own home town.
2. Reading helps our children understand others
Studies have shown that reading for pleasure plays a crucial role in helping us develop a stronger sense of empathy and a host of other social skills. When our children read about a character in a book, they have a response to that character, either positive or negative or something in between – and those responses are great practice for when they meet and react to people in their real lives. They register and interpret how those characters are feeling and how they feel about what is happening to them, and the more they practice those social skills, the better equipped they are to interact with other people in their daily lives.
3. Reading builds depth and breadth in our moral character
Fictional stories also help our children to practice interpreting what is right and what is wrong in an entirely safe and non-confrontational environment. Our children learn so much about what is fair and what is unfair, what is good and what is bad behaviour from the books they read. And without even realising it they are themselves developing a stronger moral code with every turn of the page.
4. Reading helps develop imagination and creativity
When our children read or listen to a fictional story, they are left to fill in all sorts of gaps and to picture what the author is describing for themselves. Reading and listening to stories encourages them to flex their creative muscles – and helps them understand that there are no rules or right and wrong answers when it comes to thinking creatively.
5. Reading improves vocabulary and critical thinking skills
A child that reads for 20 minutes a day will read around 1.8 million words in a year. That’s a lot of vocabulary! It goes without say that the more our children read, the more vocabulary they absorb and the easier they will find it to articulate themselves, both now and in the future. Reading fiction also requires them to interpret the problems and situations faced by their favourite characters (without them even realising it), helping to develop their critical thinking skills as well.