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The Importance Of Reading For Pleasure: Making Your Child A Passionate Reader

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By Saloni Chaudhary
5 Mar'22  7 min read
The Importance Of Reading For Pleasure: Making Your Child A Passionate Reader
Synopsis

With progressive changes in the education system, the last three decades have seen a constant decline in the reading habits of children, be it reading newspapers, articles or research papers, but especially when it comes to reading simply for the pleasure of reading books. Helping children read for pleasure needs a contemporary makeover, and needs to be reintroduced to them in novel ways. This article talks about “why reading is important”, the benefits of reading for pleasure and some interesting ideas for parents to help their children find joy in reading again.

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The Importance Of Reading For Pleasure: Making Your Child A Passionate Reader
Synopsis

With progressive changes in the education system, the last three decades have seen a constant decline in the reading habits of children, be it reading newspapers, articles or research papers, but especially when it comes to reading simply for the pleasure of reading books. Helping children read for pleasure needs a contemporary makeover, and needs to be reintroduced to them in novel ways. This article talks about “why reading is important”, the benefits of reading for pleasure and some interesting ideas for parents to help their children find joy in reading again.

Read more

Reading is one of those life-enriching, horizon-expanding privileges that is readily available to each one of us, something that can never be reserved as a prerogative of a few, as is the case with higher education. The benefits of reading for pleasure go way beyond just information gathering - it helps in linguistic, social, and emotional development, enhances attention span, improves awareness of the world, and most importantly, reading builds character.

As Oscar Wilde famously said, “It is what you read when you don't have to that determines what you will be when you can't help it.” When one reads for the pleasure of reading itself, and not for any academic requirement or curriculum, one goes beyond the prescribed themes, and allows the experience to be self-defining.

For adolescents, reading provides a glimpse into the complex world of ideas and emotions that awaits them in adulthood, offering a chance to vicariously experience them beforehand. It also affords consolation that their problems and concerns are not unique, and there are others who share similar lives. In that sense, reading can be life-affirming, bringing a sense of relief that they are not alone. Reading may also open up a window into the human condition, about lives lived in faraway lands that would never perhaps coincide with the reader, engendering an honest empathy, and a sense of relatedness with other humans, nature, ideologies, and movements at large.

Dishearteningly, research suggests that age has a significant impact on attitudes to reading and reading behaviour in children, marking a decline in the pleasure of reading books as children enter high school. Research evidence also points towards a steady decline in reading habits in children over the past 30 years, which can be attributed to educational reforms with the advent of technology and a general shift to online learning. Conventional reading is now in competition with the attractions of the internet - social media apps, games, and online TV shows that promise engagement as well as pleasure, making it increasingly difficult to go back to the charms of good ol’ reading. So how can parents guide their children in the journey to become life-long readers?

Cultivating The Pleasure Of Reading

Here are a few steps you may take to help your child experience the pleasure of reading books.

Go Beyond Books

With increasing visual stimulation due to digital platforms of learning, shifting to an unmoving, black and white page can cause discomfort, along with a lack of focus and attention. Research points towards how increasing usage of digital and online platforms of engagement is creating a generation that’s easily distracted, and has shorter attention spans. Therefore, it is imperative that parents recognise diverse reading formats and lengths for adolescents, and not emphasise reading books alone, which can require more time, focus, and attention. From reading short poems to blogs, to reading newspaper articles, plays, essays, short stories, or novels (either online or in print), all of them should be encouraged and spread out through the week for the child to choose from.

Create A Reader-Friendly Environment

Research suggests that children are more likely to become passionate readers in homes where books and reading are valued. Having a dedicated bookshelf or ‘mini library’, or a ‘reading corner’ at home imparts a sense of value and importance to the task of reading, increasing the overall motivation of the child to read. Having personal ownership of favourite books or a book collection has also been seen to motivate children in sustaining the habit of reading.

Create Rituals Around Reading

A great way to set the mood for reading is to mutually create a reading ritual with your child on late evenings or holidays, where everyone at home turns to their favourite books (without tv, phone, or other gadgets). When parents and adults read with children, it also gives the adults of the house a chance to revisit books and magazines or their favourite books if they have drifted away from reading themselves.

Encourage Discussion Of Books

When children try to articulate ideas and themes they have just read, it gives them a chance to think about them and make sense of them in the context of their own life. It ensures better assimilation of ideas, better retention and memory, and improves their ability to reproduce and express the essence of what they have learnt. If their favourite books have been shot as movies or shows, encourage them to watch them, and discuss the contrasting experience of reading and watching the same story.

the pleasure of reading, pleasure of reading books, the pleasures of reading in an age of distractionBook Discussions For Children

Let Them Choose Books That Interest Them

Parents often want their children to read books that perhaps they grew up reading, or genres that they feel would be appropriate for the child. An unconscious gender or age bias may also play a role in choosing books, as parents may feel, for instance, that certain books would interest boys more than girls, or might not interest a child of a particular age. Research suggests that an important factor in developing the pleasure of reading books is choice. Allowing children to choose the genre or book they would like to read contributes greatly to sustained interest and pleasure in reading (of course, taking care of age appropriateness around certain genres), and also enables them to develop their own sense of identity and taste through a list of their own favourite books.

Be A Reader To Raise A Reader

The best way to encourage your child to try anything is to model it for them. It builds trust and opens up avenues to develop a shared interest with your child. Parents should read with children and around them, and whenever they get a chance, share something exciting they read or an insight they got from it. The idea is to share the joy of reading with children so they can expect the same from reading.

Should Reading Be Externally Rewarded?

Reading should be an intrinsically rewarding activity, creating a state of flow for the child. What is flow? When reading, it is the state wherein one finds oneself fully immersed in the experience, reading for the joy of reading itself. However, external rewards can be helpful too in developing reading motivation, especially if they are related to books and reading itself. Gifting them books by their favourite authors, book vouchers, or things related to the reading experience like a reading lamp, bookmarks, or bookshelf, or organising a visit to a book fair or bookstore where they can pick books of their choice, can act as effective rewards for developing reading motivation.

Help Your Child Identify As A Reader

Anything that seems like a task or something to be ticked off a to-do list without any larger purpose or meaning can quickly become drab and seem boring. If reading is seen as a task devoid of purpose, where a certain number of pages need to be finished in a day or certain books need to be completed in a month, it would remain something distant and external, and never become a part of the child. When a child starts identifying as ‘a reader’, and parents reinforce this identity, a completely different relationship is formed with books, one that is personal and much more meaningful.

Encourage Use Of Apps Like Goodreads

There is no way to restrict adolescents from having a presence on social media. However, we can encourage them to have virtual engagements on apps like Goodreads which would allow them to explore hundreds and thousands of books, read reviews, interact with authors and other readers in the community, and create their own personal library of their favourite books. How one chooses to engage on social media inevitably imparts a certain sense of identity to the user, and so community apps based around reading books can help shape a powerful identity around being a reader.

Encourage Listening To Podcasts Or Audiobooks

With most of the learning happening online owing to the pandemic, children may feel too fatigued or tired to do additional reading outside of their curriculum. They may find it easier to listen to podcasts or audiobooks, which can be a wonderful replacement for conventional reading. Listening to a book being read out fluently is also a great way to become familiar with pronunciation, tonality, and expressions, which can be helpful in the verbal articulation of ideas.

Every generation sees an inevitable shift in learning methodologies, and how knowledge is imparted and disseminated. It is imperative for parents to recognise these contemporary shifts, especially when considering the what, when, how, and why we read and in order to help children adapt in an effective manner, become passionate readers and learners, and understand why reading is important in life.

Saloni Chaudhary is a counselling psychologist and mental health educator. She works with Reboot Wellness, Gurugram.

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