One of the main goals of my job as a librarian is to help children become lifelong readers. I believe that a love of reading enhances life, opens new worlds, and expands minds. It can help children become happier, more well-rounded, more empathetic, more educated, and generally better citizens of this country and of the Earth.
Recently, a scientific study by the Institute of Education showed that what librarians have long suspected is indeed true: reading improves achievement. The study found that children who read for pleasure did better in school than their non-reading peers. The kids who read regularly scored better in vocabulary, spelling, and even in math. This is huge! There is a somewhat obvious link between more reading and better vocabulary and spelling skills. After all, it makes sense that the more words you see, the more familiar you’ll be with what they mean and how they are spelled. With this new study, we not only know that to be true, but now understand that pleasure readers even do better at math. The benefits of pleasure reading continue to expand and amaze.
The study showed that reading aloud to your kids matters too. Children whose parents read to them regularly at age five scored better in spelling, vocabulary, and math at age 16 than those who were not read to.
Reading for pleasure was in the news again last week, when author Neil Gaiman delivered an impassioned speech that started by saying, “reading fiction, … reading for pleasure, is one of the most important things one can do.” Gaiman is the Newbery-winning author of The Graveyard Book, as well as numerous other books for adults, teens, and children. He spoke about how fiction is a gateway drug to more reading, and “The simplest way to make sure that we raise literate children is to teach them to read, and to show them that reading is a pleasurable activity. And that means, at its simplest, finding books that they enjoy, giving them access to those books, and letting them read them.” It is a terrific speech and well worth reading.
So what does all of this mean in practice? The librarians at the Mill Valley Public Library have a wide host of ways to encourage a love of reading in our children.
Our five story times every week not only entertain the kids in attendance but also model great early literacy activities and ways parents and caregivers can read aloud to their kids.
The librarians love to recommend books to all readers, both reluctant and voracious. Our Personalized Reading List program is designed to give kids in grades 4 through 8 a host of book suggestions.
In that same speech, Gaiman stated, “I don’t think there is such a thing as a bad book for children… We need our children to get onto the reading ladder: anything that they enjoy reading will move them up, rung by rung, into literacy.” We librarians will echo that: whatever way children enjoy reading is a good way. A child’s life is dramatically impacted by their love of reading. Keep reading fun, and the payoff will be immense.