The Importance of Reading
We can always know more and better. As human beings we are open to the infinite, although we cannot contain it all. Reading can be much more than a pleasant pastime. It can be a preparation for life. Good books challenge, thrill, excite and awaken us to the potential drama of life, especially to the drama of a life lived for the highest ideals. Through them we meet people of different types and we become better judges of character. Like true friends, good books encourage us to be our best selves.
As William Kilpatrick states in “Books That Build Character”: “Stories can create an emotional attachment to goodness, a desire to do the right thing. They help us to make sense out of life, casting our own lives as stories. And unless this sense of meaning is acquired at an early age and reinforced as we grow older, there simply is no moral growth.”
Without having to go through the experience itself, children can learn what integrity is about and how life’s decisions can add to or subtract from our long-term happiness. Plutarch once said, “Each book must be one worth reading many times, each a book that has much to say, that can lend meaning to a life, help in decisions, comfort one during moments of loneliness”. Why not start a good library in your home for each member of the family to really enjoy? Here are some ideas to guide your family reading:
- Have your children see you read daily, whether a book, a newspaper, work-related information, etc. Have material by your bedside, in the living room, even in your washroom.
- Limit screen time in your home. When TV and computer screens are kept to a minimum, children are more willing to read. Make great books easily accessible. In our home, we have large wicker baskets bursting with library books in the living room. We have also purchased new and second hand books over the years to create our own library.
- Read to your children out loud. Young children enjoy snuggling on the couch and being read to. Many parents enjoy reading to their family just before bed time. Others gather round the kitchen table right after supper to listen to the latest chapter in a captivating book. Some read out loud to spouse or children while driving long distances. Take your pick, but start and make it a regular habit. Children will cherish their memories of mom and dad reading the literary greats like the Velveteen Rabbit, Narnia Chronicles and Lord of the Rings. They are more precious than movies because they take the imagination, your relationship and time together to new heights.
- Provide a wide variety of literary styles in your home . Whether you go to the library regularly or are busy creating your own library, have on hand all kinds of books to perk different kinds of reading: historical fiction, short stories, humor, mystery, biography, non-fiction etc. As well, include joke books, books on history, science, geography, sports, etc., drawing books, music books,craft books etc. The list is inexhaustible. Open horizons for them. Try magazines, audio books, comic books, self-help books, cookbooks, popular mechanic books etc. The aim is to excite the desire for reading by tapping into their interests and curiousity. My boys loved books on famous battles which led them to read about heroes, civilizatons and history.
- Make it an enticing option. In our house, bedrooms are for quiet time, sleeping or reading and that’s it. No gismos, gadgets or entertainment systems in those rooms! When the kids reach the age of chapter books, we provide a small reading lamp for their bed and allow them to stay up for a half hour or so reading at night. If the child is not a reader, we start the book off by reading aloud, enough to pique their interest. Then we put the book down and walk away. Before we know it, they’re hooked.
- Have your children swap titles and books with like-minded families. This builds friendships and positive peer pressure. When our children were young, this became such a hit that it brought about the beginnings of a book club for girls that lasted almost seven years! Our sons had their own boys club to study greek and roman battles. They called it the Beer and Ale Club (ginger ale and root beer). What a great activity for growing minds. Start something yourself!
- Regularly talk about what is being read by your children or yourself, whether at the dinner table, during a drive or wherever. Ask good questions, see what makes your kids tick. Share ideas. Develop criteria. Show interest and watch them grow.
- Provide balance. Reading is a life skill and needs to be put in its proper spot. Some kids need to just read and develop their ability to sit still, make time and learn to enjoy it. Others read too much and need to engage in live people and active living. As parents we need to help them grow in a balanced way, not always seeking what is most comfortable and pleasurable.
- Stay on top of what they are reading. Wise parents are not interested in just any book to amuse their children. They are concerned about suitable content and want to ensure literary and moral standards. Books, magazines, comics, internet articles and even junk mail leave their mark on our impressionable youth. Smart parents monitor and choose their children’s reading material wisely. There are some lists included below to help you select books for your children. Monitor what comes into the house and feel free to dispose of, cut out or remove what you deem is inappropriate, whether in magazines, junk mail, newspapers, books etc. Your children’s minds are like wax and you want to ensure that it is impressed by what is true, good and beautiful, not something else.
Truly, culture enriches the human spirit and good books give culture. By consciously tapping into this area you can greatly enrich the human spirit. What a valuable tool you provide to your children!
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