It is becoming more challenging to promote reading among kids today.

While some kids sail the world smoothly by reading any literature they can lay their hands on,  others struggle to bond with books. There are several reasons for the same.  The current pressurizing academic schedule, after school extracurricular activities and diminishing visibility of neighbourhood libraries and bookstores has slowed the progress of reading habit among kids.

  • Reading develops life skills of a child: Planning, prioritizing and decision-making are part of every profession. Today’s corporate world presents workers with swathes of data that needs to be analysed.  Reading storybooks stimulates the frontal lobe in the brain, which assists in attention and concentration, helping children to build much needed comprehension and summarizing skills.
  • Reading promotes social skills: Storybooks help children to bond with classmates in formation of reading clubs as a support group. Kids can voice their thoughts with their peers in a competition-free space, learn to listen, share camaraderie and grow as readers.
  • Reading promotes Emotional Intelligence: While watching television is a feast for the eyes and ears, reading books encourage children to develop their imagination and visualize feelings.  Learning to acknowledge, expressing and understanding emotions are essential skills for human beings for sustenance. Reading books helps the child to understand and emote expressions. This helps to enhance non verbal body  language skills.
  • Reading promotes creative thinking: Reading serves as a nonthreatening, conducive space for today’s ‘My way is the highway’ generation.  Exploring new thoughts and ideas at his or her own pace, paves the way for developing confidence to hone problem solving skills for the future. The child understands that there are different ways to solve a problem. Life’s lessons of perseverance, compassion, patience, imperfectionism, leadership, companionship, friendship, love etc. can be imbibed through books.
  • Reading increases attention span: While reading textbooks will definitely help a child in the future, reading storybooks also benefits academics.With every passing school year, there is a rise in subject portions which forces a child to study for long hours. Thirty minutes of studies in grade 1 gradually increases to 8-10 hours by the time a child reaches grade 12.  Reading storybooks help a child to gradually increase his/her attention span without any resistance.  Since reading storybooks is an enjoyable activity and not linked to grades. Reading storybooks without pressure encourages a child to welcome the change.
  • Reading banishes the notion of Alone = Silence = Boredom: Today’s generation demands to be stimulated every moment of their waking time.  Storybooks offer them an opportunity to explore the world. Not only does reading story books help them to learn, reflect and ponder about issues which they would never have explored before, it also helps them to understand that solitude can be fun without the noisy chatter and engagement of electronic gadgets, television and other people.
  • Reading helps in vocabulary building: The race for good grades ensures a child does not attempt to learn and use new words. The physical dictionary is slowly becoming obsolete as a study companion.

Our busy lives as parents’ leaves us with little or no time to contribute to the finer ascents of language development for children today. The child does not get enough time to interact and socialize with older generation as well as peer group. The colloquial language skills they use at home and school is not enough to please their language teachers and earn good grades. Reading strengthens a child’s language.   Children learn the meaning and usage of new words in the related context and confidently construct sentences.

Let’s make an effort to build great readers with one book at a time.

This article was co-written by Shyamala Shanmugasundaram and Dr.Keerthi Pai.

(Dr Keerthi Pai is a clinical psychologist. She practices at Element H Psychological Support Services, Chennai. Shyamala S is a Navi Mumbai based children’s author. Dreams on Fire? (Children’s Book Trust) is her first book for young adults. )