Reading is an essential skill that is fundamental to a child’s development. It can help improve language skills, build vocabulary, enhance imagination and creativity, and develop critical thinking skills. However, in recent years, there has been a growing concern that children are reading less due to increased screen time and a lack of interest in books. This trend has been further exacerbated by the pandemic and the subsequent lockdowns that have impacted children’s access to books and learning environments.
In this blog post, we will explore the benefits of reading for children and provide tips on encouraging kids to read. We will also examine how the lockdown has affected reading in kids and provide insights into the types of books that children prefer.
I hope that this inspires parents and caregivers to foster a love of reading in children and unlock the many benefits that reading has to offer. You might even be inspired to start a reading habit for yourself!
You can also check out my earlier post on How to raise a Reader
Are kids still reading books?
In an era dominated by screens, social media, and digital entertainment, it’s easy to wonder whether kids are reading less. With so many distractions available at their fingertips, it’s easy to assume that books have taken a backseat in children’s lives.
According to a report from the National Center for Education Statistics (a US-based organisation), the percentage of children ages 6-17 who read for pleasure decreased from 53% in 1984 to 44% in 2019. That’s a significant drop, but it’s important to note that the decline hasn’t been consistent. For example, the percentage of 9-year-olds who read for pleasure increased from 52% in 2012 to 57% in 2019.
Another factor to consider is how we define reading. While some may argue that reading only counts if it’s a physical book, the reality is that many kids are reading on screens or listening to audiobooks. In these cases, although they might be enjoying a book, they are not fully utilising the important benefits of reading a physical book.
It’s important to also consider the role of libraries and schools in promoting reading. In India, we lack good libraries, especially for younger children, where they can choose good books that interest them and have an almost endless flow of reading material.
Schools have a critical role to play in promoting reading. Research shows that students with access to high-quality school libraries and librarians are more likely to read for pleasure and perform better on reading assessments.
Another reason why kids are not reading for leisure as much is because of high stress on academics. The pressure to get good grades is such that most children spend almost their whole day immersed in academic books. So, when they do get some free time, the last thing they want to do is read another book.
The most important thing is to promote a love of reading among children, regardless of the format or platform they choose. Whether it’s through physical books, ebooks, or audiobooks, reading has the power to educate, entertain, and inspire, and that’s something that every child should have access to.
Did the Lockdown affect reading in kids?
Overall, the lockdown has had both positive and negative effects on reading in kids. While it provided more time for reading, it also created challenges related to access to books, increased screen time, stress and anxiety, and increased distractions.
In India, kids without access to online tools during the lockdown went without formal education for almost two years. The Annual State of Education Report (ASER 2022) has revealed that following the COVID-19 pandemic, the fundamental reading and math abilities of students aged five to sixteen in the country experienced a significant decline as schools resumed operations.
With parents and caregivers also overloaded with work and chores during this period, education for many kids was a low priority, and we are yet to see how that will show up in the long term.
Benefits of reading
Reading is a valuable activity that provides numerous benefits for people of all ages.
Reading improves cognitive function by challenging the brain to make sense of the text, process information, and remember details. It can enhance vocabulary, comprehension, and critical thinking skills.
- Reading reduces stress by providing an escape from daily life and allowing you to immerse yourself in a different world.
- Reading expands knowledge by allowing you to explore new ideas, concepts, and experiences. It can provide exposure to different cultures, historical events, and scientific discoveries, which can expand knowledge and broaden perspectives.
- Reading enhances creativity by stimulating the imagination and encouraging you to think beyond your own experiences. It can inspire creativity in various forms, such as writing, drawing, or even problem-solving.
- Reading increases empathy by providing insight into different perspectives, emotions, and experiences. It can help you understand and relate to others, which can improve relationships and social interactions.
- Reading boosts academic performance by enhancing vocabulary, comprehension, and critical thinking skills.
Overall, we can all agree that reading for leisure is a beneficial activity, and by incorporating reading into daily life, you and your kids can reap the numerous benefits of this valuable activity.
How to encourage kids to read
There are many ways to encourage children to read. Here are some tips to get you started:
- Start Early: Encouraging a love of reading should start from an early age. Read to your child daily and let them see you reading as well. This can create a positive association with books and reading.
- Make Reading Fun: Children are more likely to read if it’s enjoyable for them. Let your child choose books that interest them, and read together in a cosy spot or create a reading nook. You could also have them read to you or even act out parts of the story.
- Use Technology to Your Advantage: While digital devices can be a distraction, they can also be used to encourage reading. There are many reading apps and e-books available that can make reading more interactive and engaging for kids.
- Make Reading a Part of Daily Life: Encourage your child to read during downtime. Have books available in different areas of the home, and allow them to bring a book with them when you go out.
- Connect Reading to Real-Life Experiences: Help your child connect reading to their everyday life by taking them to the library, bookstore, or book club. You can also discuss books with your child and relate them to real-life experiences.
Overall, it’s important to remember that encouraging a love of reading takes time and effort, but the benefits are well worth it. By making reading fun and a part of everyday life, you can help foster a lifelong love of reading in your child.
What books should my child read according to their age?
The types of books that kids prefer can vary widely depending on their age, interests, and reading level. Here are some general guidelines on the types of books that are popular among different age groups:
Picture Books (ages 0-5): Picture books with bright, colourful illustrations and simple stories are popular with young children. These books often feature animals, familiar objects, and characters that children can relate to.
Early Readers (ages 5-7): Beginning readers typically enjoy books with short, easy-to-read sentences and simple vocabulary. Books with familiar characters or topics such as animals, sports, and adventure are popular with this age group.
Chapter Books (ages 7-10): As children become more confident readers, they often enjoy longer books with more complex storylines. Series books, such as The Magic Tree House or Dragon Masters, are often popular with this age group.
Young Adult (ages 10-18): As children enter their teenage years, they often enjoy books with more complex themes and characters. Young adult books can cover a wide range of genres, from romance to science fiction to mystery.
It’s important to remember that every child is different, and their reading preferences may not fit neatly into these age categories. Some children may enjoy books outside their age range or that don’t fit into a specific genre. The key is to provide children with a variety of books to choose from and encourage them to read what they enjoy.
Will my kids enjoy the books I loved during my childhood?
Enid Blyton and similar authors have been popular for generations, and their books continue to be enjoyed by many children today. While some of the language and themes in these books may be dated, the stories and characters can still resonate with children and provide them with hours of enjoyment.
Blyton’s books, in particular, are known for their adventure, mystery, and humour and often feature relatable child characters that readers can identify with. They also introduce young readers to new vocabulary and concepts, which can help expand their knowledge and understanding of the world around them.
While there are some criticisms of books written in the previous century for being sexist, racist, or elitist in their portrayals of certain characters or situations, many modern editions have been updated to address these issues and provide more diverse representation.
Ultimately, the relevance of Enid Blyton and similar authors will depend on the individual child’s interests and reading preferences. Some children may love the classic feel of Blyton’s stories, while others may prefer more contemporary authors or genres.
Forcing kids to read what you want them to might just backfire as they’ll associate reading with negative emotions. Instead, you can discuss books that you loved as a kid and why and ask them about books that interest them. They might pick up a book from your list if you describe it in an interesting way.
Note: Some of the links are part of an affiliate program, which means that if you click on a link and buy something, I might receive a percentage of the sale, at no extra cost to you.