National Book Week: 5 educational benefits of reading for children

2 September marks the first day of National Book Week in South Africa. Here is how reading can improve your child’s education and knowledge.

It goes without saying that reading plays a huge impact on your child’s development as they navigate the world. Whether you read to your child regularly or encourage them to engage with literature that improves their understanding of the world, these aids are hugely beneficial to a growing brain.

Reading statistics report that only 14% of the South African population are active book readers, and a mere 5% of parents read to their children. National Book Week is an important initiative in encouraging the nation to value reading as a fun and pleasurable activity, and to showcase how reading can easily be incorporated into one’s daily lifestyle. A lot of research has been done on the effects of children reading at home and here are the benefits of reading for children in the early stages of their lives:

1. Reading unlocks a child’s imagination

Reading can be an amazing tool for children to unlock parts of their brain that would otherwise not be stimulated. It introduces new worlds, which children can explore. Reading expands the possibilities beyond their scope and challenges children to think beyond what they know. This stimulates creativity and improves their ability to learn.

2. Reading stimulates better language skills in children

Most children in South Africa are bi-lingual or multi-lingual so introducing regular reading activities for them in different languages will improve their linguistic abilities. When you speak to children, the language becomes repetitive and often limited but with reading, children can learn new words to add to their vocabulary. This helps them write better, use different phrases and construct better sentences when expressing themselves.

3. Reading exercises your child’s brain

Reading increases mental stimulation. It exercises your child’s brain and helps them with cognitive abilities that improve their memory, reduce stress, improve analytical capabilities, improve focus and encourage concentration.  Just as exercise is a key component for a healthy body, reading is a key component for a healthy brain.

4. Reading encourages a thirst for knowledge

Once reading becomes a regular activity in your child’s life, they will begin to enjoy it and see it as an essential part of their development. When children read, they formulate questions around the subject matter they are engaging with, this encourages debate and a quest to learn more about the subject matter. In this modern age, the internet can also play a vital role in giving your children more information about the subjects they are reading. Setting this kind of precedent for your kids will ensure that they consistently have a thirst to learn more.

5. Reading helps children develop empathy

As human beings, we are not always exposed to different situations that other people endure and therefore do not develop the necessary empathic skills to be able to relate or help. Reading helps children put themselves in different scenarios, surroundings, social settings, places and events outside of their own environment. When they engage with these worlds, they are able to imagine how they feel about the situation or how they would react. These are valuable skills that they need when they grow up and realise that life is also full of hardships and turmoil and that they can help make the world a better place.

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