The importance of children reading
David Hill, this year’s winner of the New Zealand Post Junior Fiction Award, offered some important advice recently.
Writing in the New Zealand Herald, he said: ‘‘ Kids who read stay out of jail. Reading gives them words. Words give them the ability to express and clarify themselves to others.
‘‘How many young guys end up in strife because they don’t have the vocab to explain what they’re doing, and so they move from incoherence to frustration to violence?’’
It’s a thought-provoking point, and well made.
But I think reading goes further than giving us words and the ability to articulate a point of view.
Yes, it shapes speech and language development, but reading together also increases our bond with our children – it’s a great excuse for closeness – and it enables children to escape into someone else’s life and see the world through their eyes.
It teaches understanding and, most importantly, it teaches empathy.
I doubt that any child could read Charlotte’s Web without empathising with Wilbur when he loses his very dear friend Charlotte, who had saved his life.
Similarly, could any child read The Diary of Anne Frank, The Sil- ver Sword or The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas without developing a keen sense of the injustices and atrocities caused by war?
So read with your kids – it will influence who they become.
Start early, with repetitive texts and rhyming ditties.
Even small toddlers who don’t yet fully understand the words will enjoy the rhythmic delights of books such as The Wonky Donkey and Hairy Maclary from Donaldson’s Dairy, as well as traditional tales and nursery rhymes.
If you make it a habit and make it a part of everyday life, your children will develop a love of reading for themselves.
It’s great to see Alan Duff’s Books in Homes sponsoring several Porirua schools, providing free books to children three times a year.
Encourage your kids to make good use of your local library, helping to set them up for a lifetime of reading pleasure. Their world, and their person, will expand and develop in countless ways.