For those of us who remember assigned readings during our school years, it is not the most pleasant of memories. It took me several months after I got out of school to even begin reading again for pleasure. I love to read, but the mere thought of it just seemed like a chore.
What happens to make kids, and even adults, think of reading as a chore, and how can it be avoided? By letting kids choose their own books, it can improve your child’s:
- Independence and self-esteem
- Critical thinking abilities
- Memory and other skills
Minimize Choosing Books for Your Kids
While well-meaning, adults who choose the majority of books kids read are doing them a disservice. Often, the books adults read as a child will not be interesting to younger generations. Let kids choose reading material that interests them, even if it is something you wouldn’t have read.
Thus, it is important not to lecture on the “quality” of newer books (“When I was your age, we had goodbooks!”). This lecturing gives children the impression that there are “good” and “bad” books. These opinions are subjective to each reader and should not be forced on others. Books, regardless of when they were published, each have their own merits and can have something to say about the world.
Choosing what a child reads when they are not interested in it can put them off of reading. Don’t worry about if a book is “too hard” or “too easy” for a child. Kids will read what they can understand, and children develop and mature differently from each other.
Enhance Decision Making
No one, child or adult, chooses a book to read without knowing why they want (or do not want) to read it. It is not enough to plop down a pile of books and tell a child to choose what they want. Gently guiding them and discussing why they would like to read a specific book can help improve decision making and critical thinking skills. What drew them towards that particular book? The description on the back cover? The illustrations? These conversations will not only strengthen your child’s self-esteem, but will strengthen your relationship as you learn how they think and what they enjoy.
Improve Critical Thinking
Independent reading can help children improve their critical thinking skills. When a child is asked why a certain book is their favorite, they more often than not reply with a simple answer like, “it was interesting.” In improving critical thinking skills, they can go further by saying, “I liked how the hero was brave and worked hard to save the town.” Even younger children can give deeper answers as to why they found something engaging and fun.
Reading Improves Brain Functions
Studies have shown that when kids and adults read books that they are absorbed in, it improves brain functions. In terms of memory, reading allows children to remember:
- How to spell words
- Grammar/Sentence Structure
- Order of events
When kids are quizzed on books they have read later or asked to write about them, they can easily recall the order of events that took place, and write more effectively. By allowing children to choose what they read and can become absorbed in, it can also improve more social skills such as empathy. If they are able to read books about characters they can care about, they can apply it to real life situations (for example, a book about the plight of a child during a war).