Reading is one of the most important skills that any child can gain, not only for achievement in school but also for enjoyment in life. There is almost no job that anyone can have today that does not require some level of reading ability. It is the touchstone for advancement in any field.
What I would like to speak to, however, is not so much the practical importance of reading but its personal significance. Children have extraordinary imaginations, especially when they are young, and I believe that it is the responsibility of adults around them to nurture and support that creativity and wonder. Reading is the most important aspect of supporting and developing children’s imaginations. What they picture as they read a story will be more important than any image they see on a TV screen.
I speak from personal experience. I cannot remember a time when I did not read. Thanks to my mother’s encouragement, I was involved in books from a very young age. I did not, however, only read books; instead, I also was a huge fan of comic books. I would read about the various superheroes and their adventures and simply become absorbed into that world. I am still a card carrying member, if such a thing existed, of Nerds-Are-Us because I continue to love superhero movies!
I loved Spiderman, Captain America, and Thor in particular. I found the Marvel comics characters to be filled with human weaknesses as well as their capacity to do amazing things and save the world from terrible villains.
As a child, I also loved science fiction and adventure tales, including Jules Verne’s A Journey to the Center of the Earth and H. G. Wells’ War of the Worlds.
As an adolescent, I discovered Gothic and Horror, both in movies in books. I fell in love with books like Frankenstein and Dracula, and I continue to love this genre. I do not claim I understood these works with the level of sophistication that I do now, but they still engrossed me in their tales of supernatural danger. If there is one book that I think most teenagers should read, as well as adults, it would be Harper Lee’s To Kill A Mockingbird.
I think that children should read picture books, comic books, children’s books, and anything they enjoy. Happiness, wonder, and pleasure should be a crucial part of their experience with reading. I recommend for almost any child who is reading at the 10 year old level or higher the Harry Potter series. I do not have the authority to say what the best children’s books are, only to suggest these as good, useful, and engaging for children.
I do want to emphasize one particular idea: at no time should reading ever be a punishment; that would be counterproductive to the goal of having children wanting to read. Children need to gain the love of reading and not resent having to do it.
Parents can take children to bookstores and let them explore and pick out books to read; they can take them to the local library—a wonderful resource! Reading not only to but with children is also an excellent way to foster the love of reading. Finally, having children seeing parents read is also extremely useful.
I hope that these somewhat scattered ideas are useful.
In the end, children should be encouraged to read what they choose to read.
Charles French, a writer and academic, has a Ph.D. in English, and is attempting to be a published novelist. He is married with one son.
Visit his blog at: http://www.charlesfrenchonwordsreadingandwriting.wordpress.com