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Last Updated on December 18, 2020

Reading for Kids: 17 Reasons Why It’s Important and Where to Start

Reading for Kids: 17 Reasons Why It’s Important and Where to Start

Reading is one of the most important activities that you can encourage your children to do. It’s entertaining, thought provoking, and absolutely critical to success later in life.

Being a proficient reader by the third grade is an integral factor in a child’s future success. Reading for kids is not just a fun pastime. It is the gateway to learning about other people, places, and ideas, with limitless possibilities.

Why Reading for Kids Is Important?

Develops Vocabulary and Language Skills

Before your kids are able to read on their own, it’s important to nurture a love for books early on. Reading aloud to them at a young age is a great way to promote verbal communication skills between parent and child.

As kids get older, we speak to them on a daily basis, but the vocabulary and topics that they are exposed to are limited and often repetitive. Reading books will improve your child’s vocabulary and expose them to different types of sentence structure, writing styles, and ways to express themselves.

Not only will your children’s reading comprehension improve over time, this will also have a positive effect on their writing and communication skills. For children who are bilingual or learning a second language, reading is an important component of attaining or maintaining fluency.

Encourages a Thirst for Knowledge

There are books written about any topic imaginable, many in a wide variety of reading levels.

When reading books, your kids will be introduced to a wide variety of topics, cultures, and ideas. They will realize how much knowledge is out there to be discovered and delve further into the subjects that interest them the most.

In many cases, they will be enjoying the content of the book so much that they won’t even realize they are gaining so much knowledge about a particular topic.

Increases Empathy

Children have a very narrow understanding of the world around them. This is due to the limited number of experiences that they have encountered, based on the circumstances in which they grew up.

Reading books about different types of people who have had a wide range of experiences allow kids to not only appreciate diversity but also to understand what it may be like being in someone else’s shoes.

Doing so will help them appreciate and empathize with people who have very little in common with them and help them develop into more well-rounded individuals.

The Best Form of Entertainment

In the current age, technology has become the go-to for entertainment for adults and kids. Although TV shows and kids apps like these can be a great resource for learning, books are a better choice every time.

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Rather than spending hours in front of a screen, encourage your kids to consider books as the default source of entertainment. Studies show that in families where reading was emphasized, the children are more likely to read independently and develop a passion for books in the long run.

Creates a Bond

There are multiple ways that reading creates a bond between parent and child. Starting from infancy, reading aloud promotes closeness and intimacy through spending time together and being physically close.

As your child gets older, you can continue to read aloud or read the same book separately and talk about the parts that you enjoyed the most.

Use reading as an opportunity engage and interact with your child, asking them about their thoughts on topics covered in the book or connecting the story to everyday life.

Exercises Their Brain

Reading requires more brain power than watching TV. When our kids read books, they utilize the part of their brain that deals with multi-sensory integrations, making connections between words and visual thinking.

For beginner readers, illustrations can be a useful tool to help them grasp the narrative and gain better comprehension. In the case of more advanced readers, they use their brain when gathering context clues to help them figure out words or phrases that are unfamiliar.

Reading also stimulates critical thinking, spurring kids to make connections between the book and real life and to form opinions about the story.

Improves Concentration

Reading a book requires focus and concentration, which are essential skills to work on, even for toddlers who have trouble sitting still.

Consistently reading books will help your kids practice quieting their minds and their bodies to focus on a task for a set period of time.

By taking away distractions and giving them space to read and understand, their attention spans and ability to concentration will greatly improve over time.

Sets Them up for Success in School and Life

There have been numerous studies that indicate reading books to children at an early age has a lasting effect on their success in school, which often directly correlates with success in the workplace.[1] But the benefits are not just limited to academic success.

Reading is a long-term learning experience that promotes growth, which will result in your children becoming more effective people overall – better spouses, bosses, and friends.

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Promotes Creativity and Imagination

When reading a story, our children create an image of how they perceive the story to look in their minds, using creativity and imagination. Every person sees a different image in their mind, and it may change each time the same book is read.

Reading also introduces new worlds, whether real or fictional, that we have never been a part of before. Immersing in the book allows your kids to imagine new experiences and scenarios that they never thought possible.

They will be able to bring these ideas into their play time and use their creativity to go beyond the limits brought on by their everyday lives.

Where To Start

Now that you are aware of the multitude of benefits that reading can provide for your kids, what’s the next step?

If your child has not yet developed a love for reading, it’s not too late to start.

1. Make Reading a Choice, Not a Chore

Don’t make reading a mandatory task or assigned chore. Encourage and remind your kids to read, but let them make the ultimate decision on when to read and for how long. Feeling like they are being compelled to read will inevitably take the joy out of the experience.

If you have a reluctant reader, try to figure out what the root cause of the reluctance is. If your kids are struggling with words, find a few books below their reading level to instill confidence in recognizing the words they DO know. Gradually transition to harder books until they are more eager to read voluntarily.

Another alternative is to try audiobooks. Hearing another person reading confidently is a great way to experience fluency, and they will be able to enjoy the book without having to stumble through it.

If the content is the issue, and they find reading to be boring, introduce them to different types of reading material (see below).

2. Suggest a Variety of Reading Material

Reading can come in so many forms and every type has something unique to offer the reader. If your kids are having trouble finding joy in reading, it may be because they haven’t found a genre that fits their interests.

Traditional books come in many genres, including mystery, history, biographies, fantasy, science fiction, and more. Some books are written in unique and fun styles, such as choose your own adventure books, diary novel, or epistolary novel.

If you are looking for reading material that is more visually stimulating, try a graphic novel, a magazine, or a travel book. Books are also great resources for learning a new skill. Joke books, magic books, and cook books are great examples of these.

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Don’t forget to show your kids the practical side of reading as well. Enlist their help in reading out the grocery list at the store or ask them to read recipe instructions when cooking in the kitchen together. All types of reading counts:

    3. Experience Books Firsthand

    As your kids read more books, they may start to imagine what it would be like if they were characters in the books. A great way to support their love for reading would be to help them depict their favorite parts of their book.

    Look up a recipe for butter beer (Harry Potter) or Turkish Delight (The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe) and make it together. Start planting a garden together after reading The Secret Garden.

    Another fun way to celebrate finishing a book is watching the movie interpretation of it. Seeing beloved characters come to life on screen is an easy way to enhance the enjoyment of reading.

    4. Be an Example

    You are the main person that your kids look up to. Kids love copying their parents and doing the things they observe their parents doing on a daily basis.

    Don’t just tell your kids to read often; show them by doing it yourself.[2] Actions speak louder than words.

    When you model your own love of reading and books and show them the joy it brings to your life, they will be inclined to feel the same way.

    5. Set Aside Time

    For a child with a busy schedule and so many other fun screen-filled activities to choose from, it can be difficult to purposely reserve time for reading.

    Make this decision a little easier by creating dedicated time that is just for reading. This can be just before bed, right after homework, or whatever time works best for your family’s busy schedule. This time can be used for read aloud time with your child or independent reading.

    6. Bring Books to Life

    Finding real life connections to the books that your kids are reading will extend the joy of the reading experience.

    Did your children just finish a book about life on the farm? Take them to visit a local farm and experience what they read about firsthand. Reading a book about planets and space can turn into a trip to the planetarium.

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    For a more memorable excursion, take a family trip out of the country, like visiting London after finishing the Harry Potter series.

    7. Make Books Accessible

    One of my favorite activities to do as a child was to go to the library. The vast number of books that were at my disposal made me so excited to read.

    Find a great library in your area to take your children and let them experience the magic of limitless possibility. Sign your kids up for their own library card and encourage them to take ownership of their reading adventure.

    Start a small collection of books at home so that your kids will always have books at their fingertips. Visit a bookstore, browse online, or sign up for a monthly book subscription. Getting access to new books on a regular basis will keep reading exciting and fun.

    8. Start a Book Club

    Having other people help you stay accountable is a great motivation to read more and to discover new books you may not have otherwise.

    Encourage your kids to start a book club, either with their peers or with you. Choose a book everyone would enjoy and set a deadline for getting together and discussing what each person thought of the book. The tangible due date is a great incentive to stay on track and read on a regular basis.

    The Bottom Line

    Fostering a love for reading in your kids is one of the greatest gifts you can give them.

    Reading books can transport them anywhere they could imagine, and the benefits that it provides for them in the short and long term are innumerable.

    Use these tips to actively encourage reading to be an enjoyable part of their lives, and it will be worth the effort.

    Featured photo credit: Annie Spratt via unsplash.com

    Reference

    More by this author

    Katie Lemons

    Parenting Blogger and Full-Time Working Mom

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    Last Updated on January 12, 2021

    Signs of Depression in Children (And How to Help Them to Overcome It)

    Signs of Depression in Children (And How to Help Them to Overcome It)

    Children, just like adults, can be depressed. Sometimes seemingly normal children with no major life issues can become depressed. It is the result of a chemical imbalance in the brain that causes clinical depression to occur. There are specific signs that you should recognize in your child if they are depressed. Getting them help and treatment is crucial to their mental wellness.

    In this article, we will look into the signs of depression in children and how parents can help them to overcome it.

    Signs of depression in children

    The DSM (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorder) is the widely accepted instruction guide that professionals utilize for diagnosing mental disorders. The DSM characterizes a Major Depressive Episode as depressed behaviors that consistently last for two weeks or longer. Therefore, if your child has been “down in the dumps”, feeling hopeless or having sadness for more than two weeks, it should be cause for concern and investigated.

    Below are signs of depression according to the DSM manual. The individual must have at least five of these behaviors present for a period of two weeks or longer to be officially diagnosed as having MDD (Major Depressive Disorder). Below is a summary/generalization from the DSM manual:

    • Feelings of deep sadness or depressed mood that last most of the day (for two weeks or more). For children they can present as irritable rather than sad.
    • Diminished interest in activities (again majority of the day or all the time).
    • Significant weight loss (not through dieting), or a decrease in appetite. In children, they fail to make expected weight gains while growing.
    • Difficulty sleeping (insomnia).
    • Either a slowing of psychomotor abilities/actions or an apparent agitation of these psychomotor abilities. This means that they either have moments that lack purpose and seem to be done because of agitation and tension or there is a significant slowness/retardation of their speech and physical actions.
    • Fatigue and loss of energy.
    • Feelings of worthlessness or excessive guilt every day.
    • Difficulty thinking, making decisions, or concentrating every day. This may be reflected in their grades.
    • Preoccupation with death and dying or suicidal thoughts.

    Please note that if your child is suffering from the loss of a loved one and is processing through the stages of grief, it is normal to have these signs of depression. If they seem to be stuck in the depression stage, then it is time to pursue grief counseling to help them along in the grieving process.

    However, if they are not suffering from a bereavement or a medical condition that would cause the above symptoms, then they should be taken to a professional for possible diagnosis and treatment of MDD (Major Depressive Disorder).

    How to help your child with depression

    Depression is not to be taken lightly. Especially if suicidal thoughts are present. The child’s feelings and emotions are real and must be taken seriously. According to the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), suicide is the number two cause of death for individuals between the ages of 10 and 34.[1]

    Professional help is recommended if you believe your child fits the criterion for MDD (Major Depressive Disorder). You can take your child to their paediatrician for an evaluation and referral. Depending on the severity of the symptoms, they may benefit from medication such as anti-depressants.

    Most professionals do not dispense medication as the first remedy for depression. Instead therapy is the first line of defense against depression, with medication being paired with therapy if the therapy is not enough or the symptoms are severe enough.

    Testing

    There are assessment tools that professionals can utilize to help in properly determining whether your child is depressed. The three tools used in assessing depression in children are:

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    • The Children’s Depression Rating Scale (CDRS)
    • Children’s Depression Inventory (CDI)
    • Clinical Global Impression (CGI)

    Taking your child to a professional mental health counselor, psychologist or psychiatrist can help ensure proper testing and assessment occurs.

    Therapy

    There are many types of therapy available today. It is important to find a professional that specializes in childhood depression and the treatment of such.

    Cognitive behavioral therapy is one of the leading therapy methods in treating childhood depression. For younger children, play therapy is useful in treating childhood depression as children are often able to better communicate through play than conversation alone.

    What parents can do at home to help their depressed child

    Besides seeking for professional help, there are a couple of things that parents can do at home to help their depressed child:

    1. Talk with your child about their feelings in a compassionate and empathetic manner.

    It can feel high pressure to sit face to face and ask your child about their feelings. However, going on a walk, playing a board game or playing alongside your child (chose whichever is age appropriate for your child) can allow them to relax and open up about their feelings.

    Ask your child open ended questions that require more than a simple yes or no to engage in more meaningful conversations. Never judge while they are being open and honest with you because it will inevitably cause them to shut down and move away from being open with you.

    It is okay to allow for periods of silence during the conversations because sometimes the child is processing their thoughts and emotions during your time together. You don’t have to fill the space and entire time with talking as silence at times is helpful.

    2. Provide activities that help them relax and de-stress.

    For smaller children, there are simple ways to help them relax.

    Provide play opportunities that they find relaxing such as coloring, painting, working with Play-do or clay, or playing with sand and sand toys. Again, find activities that interest your child and are age appropriate are helpful in making them relaxed.

    3. Limit screen time.

    Technology is not helpful in making your child less depressed. It can often be an escape that keeps them from further opening up about their feelings and emotions.

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    Limit time in front of the TV, laptop, smart phone, video games and tablets, etc. Any electronics that seem to prevent your child from face to face interactions should be limited. Ask Dr. Sears cites that researchers have found kids who have higher levels of screen time are at greater risk for anxiety and depression.[2]

    Provide alternate activities to replace the screen time such as hiking, crafting, drawing, constructing, biking and playing outside, etc. Some children may be so dependent on their screen time as their source for entertainment that they may need you to participate in alternate activities alongside them in order to get engaged in the activities.

    You can’t simply tell your child to go outside to play if they are suffering from depression, lack friends and are used to sitting down and playing video games each day after school. Go outside with your child and do a nature hike or take your child to a playground and have fun together to get them engaged in these alternate activities.

    4. Promote outdoor time and physical activities.

    Encourage your children to take part in activities that especially involve nature such as nature hikes. Do these activities with them to help them engage in the activities. Again this is an opportunity for open conversations to occur and quality time to take place.

    5. Help your child when problems and difficult tasks arise.

    Assist them by helping them break down the task into smaller and more manageable parts. Children with depression often have difficulty taking on large problems and tasks and find them overwhelming. Helping them by breaking down the task into smaller and more manageable tasks will assist in helping raise their confidence when the small tasks are mastered.

    Small tasks mastered lead to bigger tasks being mastered over time. It is a process over time, patience and a willingness to work alongside your child. This does not mean doing the task or taking on the problem solely yourself. Many times all the child needs is for you to break down the larger task into smaller more manageable tasks and for you to patiently talk your child through the completion of these smaller tasks.

    6. Help your child reduce life stress.

    When children are depressed, they have greater difficulty handling life activities in general. Cut back on activities that cause stress to increase and look for ways to help reduce stress in your child’s life.

    7. Foster a positive home atmosphere.

    Reduce or eliminate negative attitudes, language and conversations. Also avoid raised voices, passive aggressive behaviors and any form of physical violence in the home.

    Make your home a safe haven for your child instead of an atmosphere that is ever volatile (in words, emotions or physically). Make it a calm environment that makes your child feel safe and secure mentally, emotionally and physically.

    8. Help your child see the positive in life situations.

    Point out the positives in a situation rather than the negatives. Help them see the bright side of any situation.

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    Be a model of seeing the positive in life by speaking words that are uplifting, encouraging and positive. Resist the temptation to voice negative thoughts that come to mind as your child can feed off your emotions and words.

    9. Believe your child when they talk about how they are feeling.

    Listen to them patiently and take their words seriously. Do not discount or minimize their feelings. Express empathy and compassion when they do open up about their feelings. Help them utilize “I feel” statements in expressing their emotions.

    10. Keep watch for suicidal behaviors.

    Such behaviors include your child/teen researching this topic online, them giving away their possessions and a preoccupation with death.

    Seek professional help immediately with the presentation of suicidal behaviors or thoughts. Keep this number on hand and use it when in doubt: National Suicide Prevention Lifeline Phone Number 1-800-273-8255.

    11. Keep all prescriptions, alcohol, drugs and weapons locked and away from children and teens.

    This is a given for all children, but even more imperative for children who are depressed as they have an increased likelihood to abuse drugs and alcohol. They also have an increased likelihood to attempt suicide. So keep weapons and tools such as ropes and knives that can used for suicide out of the child’s ability to use.

    12. Spend quality one-on-one time with your child.

    Make the time during your day, every day, to spend quality time with your child. You may have limited time and cannot provide an hour or more a day to dedicate to one-on-one time with your child, but you should provide a minimum of 20 minutes a day with your child spending quality one-on-one time together. Try the suggested activities listed in point #3.

    13. Be an encouragement and supporter of your child.

    Show love and not frustration or anger because of the situation and your child’s condition. Help keep your attitude positive so your child can also see the positive.

    Provide daily words of affirmation that are not based on end results (such as a grade or a win) but instead praise the effort they put forth. If you praise the outcome, they will be disappointed when their efforts don’t pan out. If they are praised for their efforts regardless of the outcome, their confidence is built based upon something that they can control (the effort they put into things).

    14. Help your child to live a healthy lifestyle.

    Sleep is a very important factor in your child’s mood. Not getting enough sleep can cause an entire day to be upset. According to Sleep Aid Resource, children between the ages of 3 and 18 need between 8 and 12 hours of sleep each night:[3]

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      Ensure your child is eating a healthy and balanced diet, getting physical activity/exercise daily and plenty of sleep time.

      15. Help your child foster positive relationships and friendships with their peers.

      Set up play dates for your younger child and encourage older children to invite friends over to your home.

      16. Talk about bullying.

      It can be one of the causes of your child’s depression, so discuss their life outside of home and their interactions with their peers. Help them recognize bullying and discuss how to handle bullying properly.

      17. Help your child follow the treatment plan outlined by their doctor, counselor, psychologist or psychiatrist.

      Make sure you know the treatment plan that your child’s health care professional has outlined for child. This may include counseling session recommendations, medications and recommendations to follow through with in the home. Completing the plan will help provide optimal results for your child in the long run. A plan doesn’t work unless it is followed.

      18. Recognize that professional treatment takes time to show results.

      Don’t expect results for the first few weeks. It may take a month or longer, so be patient and understanding with your child.

      Depression in children is curable

      Depression in children can happen for a variety of reasons. It is quite treatable.

      Professional help is recommended if your child can possibly be diagnosed with a depressive episode. There are interventions that can be implemented in a professional setting, at home and at school. The key is having a plan of action to help your child.

      Ignoring the problem or hoping the depression will just go away is not a good plan. Treatment is imperative to curing depression in children.

      The first step is talking to your child’s paediatrician to get the ball rolling. He or she will refer you to specialists in your area that can help your child overcome and conquer their depression one day at a time. With you by their side, each step of the way you will get through it together and it is quite possible for your relationship with your child to be strengthened in the process as well. That can be your silver lining or positive outlook on the situation at hand.

      Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

      Reference

      [1] National Institute of Mental Health: Suicide
      [2] Ask Dr. Sears: It’s a Virtual World: Setting Practical Screen Time Limits
      [3] Sleep Aid Resource: Sleep Chart

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