I am sure most of us reading this are readers, and I love books, but this is not universal which is kinda sad.
The advantages of reading for pleasure
There are many different advantages of being an avid reader as a child and into adulthood they are:
- a better vocabulary
- a correlation between childhood reading for pleasure and academic success
- the ability see the perspective of others, as this is a skill frequently practiced whilst reading fiction.
- reading improves your memory
- it improves our ability to focus on just one thing, which is essential in today’s world which is full of distractions.
- it also can help you sleep (but not if reading on back-lit screens)
When I was young there wasn’t such a thing as YA books and the selection of books aimed at older children was either a bit crap or very outdated (think swallows and amazons etc), although I loved them. But this did mean that whilst I was a teenager, I didn’t read much except what I was set for English class. Then I discoverer trash in in the form of Jilly Cooper and Jackie Collins and their almost soft porn romances, Somehow this got me back into reading again. Now there is are plethora of books aimed at every age group and I have an 8 year old who enjoys reading, and loves being read too even more and I just wanted to have a discussion about the best ways of encouraging kids and young people to love literature in all its forms.
How to grow a reader
Most of the usual advice with encouraging reading I think I am already doing:
- Have lots of books and other reading materials in the house for both adults and children. (check)
- Read yourself and be visible whilst doing it (check but only me, not her Dad)
- Read to the child frequently and don’t stop doing it once she is able to read herself.(check)
- Let the child choose her own reading material (check, she has reread some books to death almost)
but this raises a few questions in my head:
Should we influence their choice of books, and if so how?
Should we be censoring our kids and pointing them towards more worthy books, or is it great that they love reading what is fun. My daughter at the moment loves horrid Henry books and I have a feeling that its because of an almost voyeuristic pleasure with somebody else doing things that she knows that she can’t get away with. On the other hand she tried reading the Game of Thrones book, as I wouldn’t let her watch the TV Series (she’s only 8) and she read the fist page then got bored. Which brings me onto the next question.
Can Kids Self Censor subjects in books that they aren’t ready for?
As a teenager I had a theory that children, myself included could read whatever they wanted, and if the subject matter was either too adult, either on a sexual or violence level the child would either not understand it, or stop reading or skip over the troubling section, or they will find it boring and stop reading.
As Matilda says in her Roald Dahl book:
“Mr Hemingway ways a lot of things I don’t understand” Matilda said to her. “Especially about men and women. But I loved it all the same.
On the other hand, I have recently read Neil Gaiman talking in his book of essays, The view from the cheap seats, that he encouraged his daughter after she enjoyed the Goosebumps books to read Carrie by Stephen King, the result of which, she was put off books with anything even remotely scary, until adulthood.
So what do you think?
How did you develop a love of reading, either in childhood or as a teenager?
What book recommendations do you have for a 8 year old to either read to herself or for me to read allowed at bedtime (we have read the entire Harry Potter already)?
And of course any answers you might have to the other questions on letting children choose their own material and self censorship.