During a period of downtime, which would your children prefer to do: watch videos or read? Which are they more likely to grab: a smartphone or a book?
For decades, reading has faced competition—first from TV and then from the wide availability of online visual media. “The act of reading itself may well be on the way to obsolescence,” wrote Jane Healy in her 1990 book Endangered Minds.
Back then, that statement might have seemed exaggerated. Now, however, decades later, some educators in lands where technology use is high have noted that, on average, the critical reading skills of young people have plummeted.
In this article
Why is reading important for children?
Reading stirs the imagination. For example, when reading a story, how do the characters’ voices sound? What is their appearance? What does the scenery look like? The writer provides clues, but the reader has to fill in the gaps.
“When we watch visual media, we are seeing someone else’s imagination,” says a mother named Laura. “As enjoyable as that may be, there’s something special about reading—bringing someone else’s words to life in your own mind.”
Reading builds character. As children read, they develop their ability to reason on problems and solve them. Also, to read, children must focus their attention. By doing so, they develop qualities such as patience, self-control, and empathy.
Empathy? Yes! Some researchers believe that the slow and deliberate process of reading a story helps children consider the feelings of the characters they read about. That, in turn, may help children display empathy for those they encounter in daily life.
Reading promotes deep thinking. Careful readers proceed at their own pace—even rereading where necessary—to follow the author’s train of thought. As they do so, they are more likely to remember what they read and benefit from it.—1 Timothy 4:15.
A father named Joseph observes: “When you read, you can easily ponder the meaning of a statement, connect it with what you know, and consider the lessons you can learn from it. Visual formats don’t always foster this type of deep thinking.”
The bottom line: Although videos and other visual media have their place, your children could be missing out if there is little room in their life for reading.
How to encourage reading
Start early. Chloe, the mother of two boys, says: “We read to our children from the time they were in the womb, and we continued after they were born. We’re glad we persisted. In time, reading—even for pleasure—became part of their routine.”
Bible principle: “From infancy you have known the holy writings.”—2 Timothy 3:15.
Create a reading environment. Make your home reader-friendly by having reading material readily available. “Find books that your child will enjoy reading and set the books next to his or her bed,” suggests Tamara, a mother of four.
Bible principle: “Train a child in the way he should go; even when he grows old he will not depart from it.”—Proverbs 22:6, footnote.
Limit Internet use. A father named Daniel recommends having a device-free evening. He says: “Even if it was just one night a week, we would have a quiet evening with no TV. We would take time to read, whether together or separately.”
Bible principle: “Make sure of the more important things.”—Philippians 1:10.
Set the example. Karina, a mother of two girls, recommends: “Make stories come alive by the way you read to your children and by the excitement you have for what you are reading. If you love reading, your children may follow your example.”
Bible principle: “Continue applying yourself to public reading.”—1 Timothy 4:13.
Not all children will become avid readers. However, your encouragement just might give your children the incentive they need. David, a father of two girls, takes that idea a step further. He says: “I would read what my daughters were reading, which kept me in touch with their interests and gave us topics for conversation. We had our own little reading club. It was fun!”