Now that my baby is a high school senior, I am more thankful than ever that we introduced books to him at a very early age. This summer he has five mandatory books that he must read for the English class he will take next fall. I agree with him that the book selection leaves something to be desired. He just suffered through Mrs. Dalloway by Virginia Woolf, a book that I enjoyed as a 52 year-old female, but one that left a 17 year-old boy cold. The next four books don't look that much more appealing.
Thankfully, he has had chances to read great books, ones of his choosing, throughout his life. While I am disappointed that he is not the avid reader that his parents and siblings are, he appreciates reading on his terms. While he leans toward books that are sports themed, I am thrilled that he is reading at all.
When your kids are very young, reading offers many values. Most importantly, it is an opportunity to spend quality time with your kids with no distractions. It gives you a common interest that you can discuss at any age. Most kids latch on to favorite stories and can often recite them verbatim after several times through the book. Just hearing the rhythm of the words is important for children as their own language skills develop. Seeing how words are written provides valuable pre-reading and pre-writing skills.
Of course, in our competitive educational world, the standardized tests the kids must ultimately take to get into college will have words and references from literature that the students must know to succeed. It's impossible for a student to take a crash course and be successful if he hasn't read throughout his life.
But there are benefits beyond the educational values of reading. Children can escape into fabulous new lands, learning more about the world around them. They can discover new interests and be inspired by heroes who came before them. Kids who may be shy or face awkward social issues at certain points in their lives can discover through books that they are not alone. They may even find ways to empower themselves to forge through a difficult situation.
So pull out your old favorite children’s books and share them with your kids. Or, introduce your children and yourself to some new kids’ literature. Not only will you enjoy the shared experience and get your kids onto a path of learning, but you will demonstrate the importance of reading while your kids are young.