To me, reading is as vital as breathing. I am one of those people who is more likely to pack a holiday suitcase with books than bikinis. I constantly have a pile of books waiting to be read and I always have at least two or three books which I am part-way through. Along with my love of music, reading has provided me with an escape through some of the hardest times in my life. It has taught me things about myself which I never knew and taken me on adventures which I never could have dreamed of. My love of all things literature runs so deep that my husband knows he will be the one responsible for salvaging the valuables from the house in the event of a fire. I will be too busy rescuing my books.
My love affair with books started at a very young age. In fact, I don’t remember a time when I didn’t dream of owning a mountain of books and a library of my own. As my love of reading grew, so did my love of writing. I wanted to create magical worlds just like the ones in the books I had loved so much, so I would create my own little stories for my parents and siblings to enjoy. One story from this time which I remember being particularly popular was “The Day I Got Sucked Down the Plug Hole” which was exactly what it said on the tin; a story about my adventures down the drain after I had been accidentally sucked down with the bath water. I remember that my teachers even bound and laminated it for me so that I could have a proper book.
Reading, and subsequently writing, gave me a creative outlet and a way of expressing myself. Through books, I could imagine drinking lashings of ginger beer with the Famous Five, flagging down a train with the Railway Children or even falling in love with a vampire like Poppy from the Night World series. Through books, I found heroines that I could relate to and learned that nothing in live was impossible to overcome.
When I became a parent, I knew that I wanted to share my love of literature with my children and open a door for them in to the secret world where all book characters live. I started when they were very tiny, with time spent sitting on my lap looking at picture books together or even just reading the newspaper. This would then develop in to stories, letter recognition and, eventually, they started reading to me. As much children have grown, I have realised how important it is in todays world to instil this simple pleasure in children. In our modern world of quick fixes and fast technology we find that books are being lost. Children prefer to play computer games and consoles, where they know they will get instant gratification. Reading takes too long; books are too boring.
I’m not going to lie, of course my children have screen time (probably far more than they should), but I do insist on reading time too. There has to be some sort of balance. At some point each day they will have to sit down with a book. This can be any book that they want, the important thing to me is that they have chosen to read it. I don’t see the point in making them read a book that they don’t enjoy as it then becomes a chore or a punishment. So, whether they choose a football book, a world records book, a fiction book they’ve already read a dozen times or perhaps choosing to read with a younger sibling, that’s ok with me. The important thing is that reading happens. It’s a time to slow down, switch off a little and engage their minds in a different way.
It may sound rather strict for me to say that the MUST read each day, but it honestly is worth it. Getting the children in to the habit of reading and enjoying stories from the earliest possible age really does pay off. As they have grown, the children now choose books over computer games more and more often. In fact, last Christmas my eldest 3 children chose to have more books on their Christmas lists than any other gift. I also see the benefits in the conversations they have about the world around them and in their school work when they suddenly grasp how sentences work because they noticed the full stops and capital letters in the story we had read at bedtime.
During this latest National Lockdown, I have put more emphasis on the importance of reading than almost anything else. My 7-year-old has always struggled when it comes to engaging with the remote learning tasks set by his teachers. Some days, I have been doing well if he puts the date at the top of a page, let alone anything else. When I spoke to teacher friends about my concerns that he would fall behind, I was advised to not worry so much on the amount of work he was producing and instead encourage him to read. Through reading, he learns without even realising he is doing it. His spellings have improved as well as his understanding of punctuation and grammar. Fact books have meant that he now has a very in depth knowledge of rhinos and fiction books have helped to engage his imagination. It has also helped him to deal with some of the emotions that he has felt over the last year as his vocabulary has increased as a result of reading.
I have to admit that I was a little dubious at first, but it really has helped and he is now wanting to complete more of the school work too.
So, if you are feeling overwhelmed or unable to shut down, I really do recommend reading. The benefits are impossible to count. It doesn’t matter if it’s a book you’ve read a dozen times or something which has been sitting on your shelf for years waiting for you to get round to it. Take a few minutes to just switch off and forget about daily life. Immerse yourself in a whole new world, where anything is possible. I promise, you’ll be glad you did.