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Here are some of the reasons why reading is so important for children.

Why do we tell children to read ?

We're always telling children that books and reading are good for them,
but have we ever really thought about why that's true ? Exactly what do
older children get out of reading novels ? What do younger kids get from
being read to ? Does reading matter ?

The purpose of this article is to say that, yes, it's true, reading really is
important, and that there are some solid reasons why that is so. Let's
begin with the practical benefits and then move on to the less tangible
rewards of a life filled with reading.

Books help children develop vital language skills.

Reading is an important skill that needs to be developed in children.
Not only is it necessary for survival in the world of schools and (later
on) universities, but in adult life as well. The ability to learn about new
subjects and find helpful information on anything from health problems
and consumer protection to more academic research into science or
the arts depends on the ability to read.

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Futurologists used to predict the death of the printed word but,
ironically, Internet has made reading more and more a part of people's
daily lives. The paperless society is a myth. The computer's ability to
process and analyze data means that endless variations on reports and
other types of documents can be and are generated. Internet, itself
an enormous new source of information and recreation, is based on
the humble written word. To effectively utilize the web and judge the
authenticity and value of what is found there, both reading and critical
thinking skills are of prime importance.

The more children read, the better they become at reading. It's as
simple as that. The more enjoyable the things they read are, the more
they'll stick with them and develop the reading skills that they'll need
for full access to information in their adult lives. Reading should be
viewed as a pleasurable activity - as a source of entertaining tales
and useful and interesting factual information.

The more young children are read to, the greater their interest in
mastering reading. Reading out loud exposes children to proper
grammar and phrasing. It enhances the development of their spoken
language skills, their ability to express themselves verbally.

Reading, by way of books, magazines or websites, exposes kids to new
vocabulary. Even when they don't understand every new word, they
absorb something from the context that may deepen their understanding
of it the next time the word is encountered. When parents read aloud to
children, the children also hear correct pronunciation as they see the
words on the page, even if they can't yet read the words on their own.
Reading can open up new worlds and enrich children's lives.

As mentioned above, reading opens doors - doors to factual
information about any subject on earth, practical or theoretical.
Given the wealth of available resources such as Internet, libraries,
schools and bookstores, if children can read well and if they see
reading as a source of information, then for the rest of their lives
they will have access to all of the accumulated knowledge of mankind,
access to all of the great minds and ideas of the past and present.
It truly is magic !

Through books, children can also learn about people and places from
other parts of the world, improving their understanding of and concern
for all of humanity. This, in turn, contributes towards our sense that we
truly live in a "global village" and may help us bring about a more
peaceful future for everyone.This can happen through nonfiction but,
perhaps even more importantly, reading novels that are set in other
places and time periods can give children a deeper understanding of
others through identification with individual characters and their plights.

Through stories and novels children can vicariously try out new
experiences and test new ideas, with no negative consequences in
their real lives. They can meet characters who they'll enjoy returning
to for comforting and satisfying visits when they reread a cherished
book or discover a sequel. Books also give kids the opportunity to flex
their critical thinking skills in such areas as problem solving, the concepts
of cause and effect, conflict resolution, and acceptance of responsibility
for one's actions. Mysteries allow children to follow clues to their logical
conclusions and to try to outguess the author. Even for very young
children, a simple story with a repetitive refrain or a simple mystery to
solve gives a confidence boost. Children can predict the patterns and
successfully solve the riddles.

Children are influenced by and imitate the world around them. While
a steady diet of violent cartoons may have a detrimental effect on
children's development, carefully chosen stories and books can have
a positive influence on children, sensitizing them to the needs of others.
For example, books can encourage children to be more cooperative, to
share with others, to be kind to animals, or to respect the natural

Reading can enhance children's social skills.

Although reading is thought of as the quintessential solitary activity, in
certain circumstances reading can be a socializing activity. For example,
a parent or grandparent reading a story aloud, whether  from a traditional
printed book or from an ebook,  can be a great opportunity for adult and
child to share some quiet, relaxed quality time together away from the
rush and stresses of the business of daily living. They share a few minutes
of precious time, plus they share the ideas that are contained in the story.
In addition, older children can be encouraged to read aloud to younger
ones as a means of enhancing their relationship.

At school or at a library story hour, books can bring children together
and can be part of a positive shared experience. For some preschoolers
this may be their primary opportunity to socialize and to learn how to
behave around other children or how to sit quietly for a group activity.
Make the most of this experience by encouraging children to talk about
what they've read or heard.

Reading can improve hand-eye coordination.

It may sound funny, but ebooks can be a way for children to improve
their fine motor skills and their hand-eye coordination, as they click
around a childfriendly website or click the backward and forward buttons
of online story pages. They may also be picking up valuable computer
skills that they'll need in school and later in life.

Reading can provide children with plenty of good, clean fun !

I've saved the most important point for last. Reading can provide
children with endless hours of fun and entertainment. All of the
pragmatic reasons above aren't at all necessary to justify reading's
place in children's lives. Stories can free up imaginations and
open up exciting new worlds of fantasy or reality. They allow children
to dream and may give them a good start on the road to viewing
reading as a lifelong source of pleasure, so read to your young
children every day.

Inspire your older children to read. Give them access to plenty of
reading material that they'll enjoy and discuss it with them. Sample
everything - traditional printed books and  ebooks on Internet, classic
children's novels and fairy tales, as well as more modern stories.

If a child wants to hear the same story over and over again, don't
worry about it. Children take comfort from the familiarity and
predictability of a beloved story that they know by heart. There's no
harm in that. Reread old favorites and, at the same time,  introduce
your children to new stories. Your child's mind and heart have room
for both.

So reading really does matter after all !

There are so many ways  in which reading continues to be both a
vital skill for children to master, and an important source of knowledge
and pleasure that can last a lifetime. Nurture it in your children. Make
the most of all the resources that are available and waiting for you:
printed books, online books, magazines and so forth. Encourage follow-
up activities involving creative writing skills and the arts, as well, so that
your children can reflect upon or expand on what they've absorbed and,
at the same time, develop their own creativity. As you help your kids
appreciate the magic of reading, you'll find that there's a whole
wonderful world full of children's literature out there that YOU can enjoy

Barbara Freedman-De Vito, artist, writer, professional storyteller, children's librarian and teacher, offers children's clothing, baby clothes, family clothing and gift items decorated with her artwork on her website: Kids T-shirts, Children's Clothing and Baby Clothes from Baby Bird Productions. She also writes and illustrates colorful, animated children's stories which are available on CDs, and provides free games and educational activities for children, teachers and parents.

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