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How can we help children discover the joy of reading in this digital age?

How can we help children discover the joy of reading in this digital age?

Wednesday, May 02, 2012

The internet is part of our lives now and most young people connect via the internet - this is fine as it allows global connection and is a great source of information (as can be TV).  But what about the pleasure of hands on reading and enjoying real books? Computer games can be great for fun, reflexes and relaxation but you need a balance, and books and reading often get pushed out.  And of course, you need to learn to read even to benefit from the information on the internet.  Reports and recent figures show many kids can’t read well so they are shut out from the wonder of books – there have been government programmes to improve level of reading skills and the use of iPads and Kindle have also shown encouraging signs that people will use new technologies to read.  And although kids love digital stuff  they still seem to enjoy books they can hold in their hand. 

There has been research on whether use of computers lowers the literacy level of children: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/health/article-1390365/Computers-home-wrecking-childrens-reading-skills-age-nine.htmlEncouraging children to read can often prove to be a difficult task, but it is important that children discover the joys of reading.  Not only can you learn from reading – and become informed – it can open a new world or you can journey into a new secret world to escape from reality – sometimes that can be a good thing! Bringing a book to life will certainly encourage a child to read, and reading can also be used as bonding time for a child and parent. Assuming they enjoy the experience, they will benefit and find the joy in reading. This will subsequently help them to develop.

There are many ways to do this, some of which are more effective than others. To keep a child’s brain active their imaginations need to be inspired. Research has proven that children develop faster through play.http://www.child-development-guide.com/child-play-development.html Choosing the right books can be beneficial; it’s always good to correspond the interest and hobbies the child has to the books they are offered.  The more relevant to their tastes, the more enjoyable it will be and the more pleasure the reading will give. The hobbies and interests your child has could well be augmented by a subscription or series of reading materials. This is perfect for on-going enjoyment of literature. The time and timing in which your child reads is also important. It is known that a child will absorb information if it is read to before bed.http://www.abs-cbnnews.com/lifestyle/08/24/11/benefits-bedtime-storytelling It can also spark imaginative and positive images for dreams. Bed time is also a relaxed and comfortable time to delve wholly into a book. A child will probably not enjoy reading during meals, or while a parent is vacuuming or where there are other distractions. It is important that for a child to enjoy reading the correct atmosphere must be set. Perhaps room away from the tv could be available, or maybe a little special reading space where a child can enjoy sitting to read.  Fun colours and shapes, sparking creativity would be helpful.

It is important that it is quiet at the time your child is reading. The old saying reads that you mustn’t choose a book by its cover but where children are concerned it is important that the cover is colourful, fun, sparks interest and is engaging.  It is important also, that children can physically see parents and other adults reading for pleasure. It is a researched fact that children act as their role models do. That is most often the parents so it is important that parents read regularly and a child is witness to that.   Of course there are problems here; some parents may not have the time or inclination to sit and read with their children, or may even not be interested in reading themselves. 

There are also problems for parents who do not have English as their mother tongue; this can be an opportunity to improve English and share the learning process with their kids. Reading with children makes them discover the joy of reading as they enjoy spending time with parents. They feel special and are proud when they get compliments for their reading. It is also a conversation starter and can develop all sorts of understanding for aspects both within and outside the themes of the book. A book can also inspire other enjoyable activities as a development of the book itself. Spending personal time with your children will make them feel special and they will appreciate that they are able to share something. Visiting libraries can often be a fun and enjoyable experience for children. There are often fun interactive workshops and activities taking place with children at certain days of the week. Children certainly discover the joy of reading on these as they tend to meet other children, make friends and appreciate their special treat.  During some research I was doing with primary age children in schools and libraries over the last two years I found that teachers and libraries did a terrific job in inspiring and informing children – most librarians and teachers seem to me to be dedicated and and excited about finding numerous ways of opening the wonderful world of books and reading to children. 

Teachers and librarians can also give advice to children wishing to read about – and learn from – their role models. It can also be more enjoyable if your child if they are encouraged to interact with older siblings. It is perfect to involve the whole family in reading games. Understandably there will be an array of reading levels but the concept will be the same. Maybe the older ones could read to the younger ones or visa versa.  Shared reading in groups is related to enjoyment and development so this is definitely worth a try. When a parent praises children’s efforts the child will be filled with joy and will be eager to read. Reading should always be thought of something fun and enjoyable. I think we can help a child discover the joy of reading in this digital age but it needs a combination of government, teachers, parents, authors, publishers and inspired leaders working together with children to make it happen. Auriel Blanche – creator of the Magic Sunglasses Programme - www.themagicsunglasses.com

Photo by Brad Greenlee of Flickr

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