By Jesús López.
Videogame consoles, mobiles, the television…everything seems to be against enjoying a good book. This article analyses the importance of reading in childhood and offers some tips on encouraging this habit among the youngest members of the family.
The benefits of reading are well known: it improves every level of brain activity, it develops the powers of observation and analysis, it helps to improve attention spans, it improves creativity and the imagination...to present all of the benefits seems almost impossible, but we can touch upon how it affects the emotional development of children with three very illuminating examples.
- According to recent studies performed by Raymond Mar (York University, Canada) and Keith Oatley (University of Toronto), reading alters a person’s character and emotions and even their personality. Therefore, they say, people who read regularly are better at capturing emotions and can easily adopt them for themselves, thus favoring the development of empathy.
- In addition to being the first time that children come into contact with literary creations, children’s literature is also an excellent tool for developing their personality, creativity, imagination and critical judgment (Escalante and Caldera, 2008).
- Marchesi (2005) claims that reading brings us into contact with other feelings, other experiences and other lives, helping children to overcome individualism and to connect with the intentions, expectations, desires and frustrations of others.
FORCE THEM TO READ? NO, THANKS
If forcing them to read was effective, surely our scores in the different studies on reading habits would be extraordinary? But they’re not.
The results of the latest research show that reading should be encouraged through fun, motivation and, above all, by showing that reading is a leisure activity that more than complements the others (video consoles, television, etc.). Reading is simply one form of entertainment; it is not there to replace the others.
REAL CHILDREN, REAL TRICKS.
On many occasions, those techniques employed to encourage reading which have an excessive pedagogical influence have been shown to be ineffective. Below, based on recent studies by the Germán Sánchez Ruipérez Foundation, Scholastic and the SOL (Reading Guidance Service for Children and Young People), I will describe five highly useful techniques for encouraging the habit of reading:
1. Parents and teachers, role models. A child who sees people reading at home or in school is far more likely to become interested in reading, due to the principle of imitation. If possible, read together with them, this will provide a tremendous boost. Here’s a very simple test for you to try: buy an illustrated book or children’s book without saying anything to your child and leave it somewhere visible where they can’t reach it. Encourage their curiosity, speak to them about it…what do you think will happen?
2. Take your child to a children’s bookstore. Fortunately we have very good children’s bookstores in our country. Take them to a bookstore one afternoon, without telling them beforehand, on the way back from another activity. Children’s books are designed to be looked at, touched and enjoyed by children. Let them choose the ones they want without any restrictions (let them choose three or four) and then ask the bookseller for advice on which is the best option. The child will feel very excited and an active part of the book-choosing process.
3. Storytelling. Telling them tales, stories and anecdotes is part of this process. We all have a little storyteller inside us, take advantage of it. Also, you will only need a small repertoire when you employ very simple creative techniques (for example, invent different endings to the stories, change the characteristics of the characters, set the story’s action in places that they know, etc.).
4. Add drama to your reading. Children have great fun with theatrical activities. When reading together, add some little dramatic touches (encourage them to put on different voices for the dialogues, to give little performances of the bits that appeal to them, to dress up in costumes…).
5. Create stories together with your child. For many years, the fact that children have been seen as a bystander in the reading process has hindered the process of encouraging them to read. Children want to play an active part, to create, to participate and to feel that they are part of the stories. Creating stories, writing them down, sharing them…this generates such enthusiasm in children that it is being shown to be one of the most effective techniques.
THE USE OF TOOLS SUCH AS BOOLINO
If you’re reading this I guess that you know what BOOLINO is all about, so I will focus on describing the three key benefits to using this tool.
1. Social network, social book. Being able to access a database like BOOLINO’s makes it possible to share reading experiences, to rate books together with other users, to help people find new reading material and to get information about the latest news from the world of children’s literature. All within a familiar setting, being helped by other readers like you or me.
2. “The best advertising is done by satisfied customers" (Philip Kotler). In a world in which commercial advertising consumes honest opinion, using a tool like BOOLINO gives you the freedom to choose books based on the real tastes of other users, thanks to the feedback made possible by this tool (personally, I think that it’s the reason why this platform is such as success).
3. Welcome mummies and daddies! BOOLINO’s focus is both child and adult-oriented, so it helps parents and children to share the reading experience. Parents become role models and travelling companions on this exciting journey through the world of reading.
And now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to read a good book. How about you?
Illustrations by Isablle Arsenault. Photo from Librería Librillos, Murcia.