I was 19 or 20 at the time, a sophomore or junior in college. I had stopped by the house of a guy I was seeing and waited around while he took care of one thing or another. As I took in the environment I was baffled. From room to room, wherever my eyes wandered there wasn’t a book in sight. I mean there was no reading material of any kind, anywhere. This was back in the dark ages when there were no cell phones and certainly no electronic readers. My head was spinning: How does anyone live without books? A house with no books meant a family with no books. I didn’t get it.
Look to the Past
The absence of the written word in any of its manifestations begs a bigger question: Why do some people love to read and others don’t? Sociologist Wendy Griswold found that 20% of the US population spends a lot of their leisure time reading. But why? Part of the answer lies in three factors that influence the lifelong reading habit:
- Children who are adept at going from the printed word to words in the mind become “fluent coders.” They often have parents who read to and with them from an early age.
- These same children tend to have a wide range of understanding about the world because parents contribute information, clarity and exposure to new concepts.
- There is a motivational factor as well – the child has a positive attitude about reading and about herself as a reader.
Fast Forward to the Adult Reader
Here’s one very good reason to nurture the reading habit: recent research concluded that reading reduces stress levels by a whopping 68% (that makes sense to me!) while strengthening the mind and improving both memory and thinking skills. When the Pew Research Center asked readers what they liked most about delving into a book, responses varied:
- 26% said learning, gaining knowledge, and discovering information.
- 15% mentioned escaping reality, becoming immersed in another world, and using their imaginations.
- 12% said they liked the entertainment value, the drama of good stories, the suspense of watching a good plot unfold.
- 12% said they enjoyed relaxing while reading and having quiet time.
Others mentioned gaining spiritual enrichment, being mentally challenged, exploring new, interesting topics and experiencing the physical properties of books made the list. One respondent added: “I love being able to get outside myself.”
Parents Can Encourage a Love of Reading
It is generally understood that children who love reading do better in school and have an expanded vocabulary. Many add that children who are avid readers have an expanded sense of the world and are perhaps more empathetic towards others. As a parent, here are a few things you can you do to encourage the reading bug in your home:
- Make books and other reading material highly visible. Don’t restrict them to your nightstand or your desk; put that content where kids can see that it is integral to your life. Besides, books make a beautiful esthetic statement!
- Talk about reading during daily activities: while eating dinner together and in the car on the way to soccer practice. Share with your kids what you are currently reading and why it is exciting to you.
- Bring books along on your visits to the beach, your local pool, and yes, ahem, maybe even to soccer practice?
- Give books as birthday presents to your children and to their friends.
- Make regular visits to our local bookstores, resellers, and library branches.