It’s amazing to me how many kids these days just do not read books.  At all. Not online. Not in reality. I asked one 14-year-old young lady why she doesn’t read like she did as a young child. “It makes my brain hurt,” she said.  On the flip side, I know a bright young 18-year-old who has been a voracious reader all her life.  “It takes me places I might not be able to go,” she told me.  

Of course, kids know how to read.  For the most part.  They learn when they’re toddlers to recognize printed words, associate those words with images, read labels, signs, and required school assignments. But they often do not love or even appreciate reading as a valuable life skill or as an amazing source of real entertainment. Some kids read as a side requirement for certain video games. Some kids read Kindle or other e-reader applications.  But most teenagers seem to stop reading unless it’s required of them by the public or private school system.  

So why does reading matter?  Is NOT reading going to change your child’s life for the negative?  

DOES READING AFFECT CHILD DEVELOPMENT?

A quick Internet search reveals multiple sources that assure us that the effects of reading on child development are significant.  The great news is that you, as a homeschool parent, are uniquely positioned to be sure that reading is a vital part of your homeschooler’s daily routine.

It is a fact that reading skills form the basis for success in all other subjects.  Reading is essential in math, in science, in social studies – in all the core subjects needed to graduate from high school, excel in college, or move on to any kind of meaningful employment. Because of this, it’s important that you continuously expose your student(s) to high-quality literature so they can develop their reading and reasoning abilities and become successful in life.

Not long ago, I read an article related to study results showing that kindergarteners who were encouraged to read as part of their home life have a MILLION more words than those whose families did not encourage them to read. A MILLION more words!  Imagine the future benefits of this kind of skill base! There is no question that reading helps us develop our imaginations, increases curiosity, and exposes us to new ideas we might not experience otherwise. 

“Reading for pleasure can benefit a child’s education, social and cognitive development, their well-being and their mental health.”

A study by Saloni Krishnan and Mark H Johnson (Booktrust-wFB-12Aug2014) “details the effects of reading on later literacy skills, facilitating social interaction between adults and children, and encouraging children to engage with the world around them.”  The study also reports that “reading can be a ‘stable source of information’ throughout a child’s life. This stability allows them to access text in a constant fashion and can be especially beneficial for children growing up in challenging circumstances.”

WHY IT’S IMPORTANT THAT YOU READ TO YOUR KIDS

Stephanie Nicola, writing on November 5, 2021, for the site WebMD, summarizes five important benefits of reading to your young children.

  1. Build language skills – “When you read books, you’ll be reading words you don’t typically use in everyday conversations.  Hearing new words helps children build their vocabulary.”
  2. Connect with your child – “Sharing the experience of a book together can help you and your child bond.  The affectionate one-on-one time creates special memories and helps kids associate reading with something positive.”
  3. Develop the brain – “One study showed that when preschoolers had greater exposure to reading at home, imaging studies show more activation in areas of the brain associated with mental imagery and understanding narratives.”
  4. Improve literacy – “Reading to a child improves their future reading skills and fosters a love of reading.”
  5. Improve future health – There is a link between literacy and health outcomes.  The reasons for this link are multifaceted, but literacy is important when it comes to successfully navigating health care.”

(SOURCE:  Reading to Children: The Far-Reaching Benefits of Reading to Your Kids (webmd.com) 

Other studies have demonstrated that babies who are read to score higher in later years in the areas of language skills and cognitive development and problem solving.  A 2018 research report suggests that “this link extends throughout childhood into the teen years” and “researchers say that verbal interactions (reading, talking) between parents and young kids may promote higher language skills and IQ scores all the way up to age 14.”

(Another great resource:  Reading to Children: Why It’s So Important and How to Start (healthline.com)).

ARE THERE BENEFITS TO READING “REAL” LITERATURE?

In November 2020, the website www.verywellfamily.com  posted an updated article by Rebecca Fraser-Thill that summarized two primary developmental benefits of reading literature.  (NOTE: The article was fact-checked by Cara Lustik.)

Fraser-Hill noted that, because reading skills are extremely important for excelling in all educational subjects, children need to be continuously exposed through their teen years to high quality literature to prepare them for advanced education and career opportunities.

TWO PRIMARY DEVELOPMENTAL BENEFITS OF READING LITERATURE

Cognitive Benefits – Cognitive benefits involve all forms of conscious intellectual activity, including thinking, reasoning, and remembering. Ms. Fraser-Hill noted that “A key cognitive benefit of reading literature is the development of reasoning skills. Tweens (i.e., young teenagers) typically accept information that is provided to them by experts — including parents and teachers — and that they themselves experience with their own senses. This type of reasoning is less advanced than that of older teens and twentysomethings, who realize that truth is relative and varies from person to person.”

Social and Emotional Benefits

Literature includes the opportunity to introduce students to diverse situations they may not be experiencing in their own lives. “Exposure to diversity can aid in tweens’ empathy for others, tolerance for difference and development of emotional sensitivity.” Being exposed in their reading to varying backgrounds and perspectives may also help tweens move beyond adolescent egocentrism, which in turn benefits their interactions with peers, teachers, and parents.

Finally, reading literature “gives tweens an opportunity to grapple with and process strong emotions in a safe setting without feeling overwhelmed by the emotions. This helps to prepare them for future real-world situations.”

(SOURCE:  Developmental Benefits of Reading Literature (verywellfamily.com))

Exposing your homeschooled child to literature is extremely important because it provides the chance to respond to literature and helps young people learn to develop personal opinions. Reading literature also encourages deeper thoughts and emotional intelligence and imagination and cultivates growth and development of personality and social skills. Overall, giving children access to all types of literature is important for their long-term success in life.

IN CLOSING, if your family does not have a collection of “good literature” for use by your homeschooler, Use your local public library. You and your child can choose from thousands of books for free at your local library. If you need help, librarians have an amazing ability to pair kids with just the right book.

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