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Below are a few famous quotes to get your child started on the quest to read wide:
- In his book I Can Read With My Eyes Shut, Dr. Suess famously wrote, ‘The more you read, the more things you will know. The more that you learn, the more places you’ll go.‘
- When Kate DiCamillo talked about children in relation to reading, she said ‘Reading should not be presented to children as a chore, a duty. It should be offered as a gift.‘
- Mahatma Gandhi once said ‘Live as if you were to die tomorrow, learn as if you were to live forever‘
- And according to Barack Obama, the opportunity to read wide allows him ‘to slow down and get perspective’ and ‘get in somebody else’s shoes.’
Reading wide is much more than just classroom engagement with academic reading material. It is a deliberate effort we undertake to read plenty of fiction, non-fiction, periodicals, and other content. We do this to acquire both theoretical knowledge and practical skills. Extensive reading allows our cognitive mind to travel around the world, as it creates visual imagery of what we are reading.
The art of reading wide is necessary for young generations in the 21st Century for very good reasons. When they read wide they learn to reflect on the past, the present and the future in order to cultivate an informed understanding of the emerging global lifestyles, traditional cultures, popular culture, and the different faces of religion.
The reading culture in modern-day children is however not as wide-spread as it should be. Instead, they are exposed to enticing yet electronic distractions, which are not as fulfilling for personal health and well-being.
We as parents, have ourselves to blame for this. We have condemned them to watch a lot of depressing soaps, news, reality TV, and of course keep them sedentary for long hours in front of gaming consoles and computer screens! If we handle this situation in a better way, we would have them spend an hour or two of this time reading long-form books.
Reading is important for grown-ups too, especially those who wish to stay up to speed with the evolving information in the 21st Century. It is a great weapon against ignorance and fake news since it sharpens our brains to sort through data misinformation and bias. These ills have become commonplace due to information overload and the freedom for all to publish online.
Whereas extensive reading may seem like a chore in the first months and years, the pleasure we derive from the habit is priceless in the long run.
Emerging Digital Content!
Yes, the writing and reading platforms have evolved tremendously in the 21st Century, as writers and readers shift their trade from the traditional book-forms and print periodicals to digital content. Researchers, reporters, bloggers, and academic portals, now prefer to publish content online.
We now read long-form literature using the kindle, our smartphones, and the ubiquitous computer screen types. We can also use the same devices and smart speakers to listen to podcasts and our favorite audio files because they allow us to multitask. We can listen to our favorite ebooks while doing dishes and laundry!
While the shift to digital content is a good thing, it has also given fame to short forms of writing, which are interfering with our ability to stay focused for long. Micro-blogging platforms such as Twitter, Pinterest, WhatsApp, and Facebook have ensured that we write little and read little. We can only read an average of 150 words today, before our focus shifts to other micro-content and notifications! While at it we supplement our short attention spans with emojis in order to engage our emotions!
The popularity of the Instagram photo-sharing app also means we view and watch lots of multimedia content at the expense of reading. After all, a picture is worth a thousand words!
It is unfortunate that our children are gladly conforming and trusting data centers owned by Facebook and Google to become custodians of all information. Meanwhile, the rest of us are sitting back, clicking on emoji’s and indulging short-form content and jargon!
It is the responsibility of parents to get children to start reading early and here is why:
1. Reading Wide is Great for Health & Subjective Well-being
If you are a good reader, you probably know the feeling of getting lost in a good narrative simply because the story is told so well and subconsciously carries you to another world and time.
Like novelist Jean Rhys wrote,
Reading makes immigrants of us all. It takes us away from home, but more important, it finds homes for us everywhere.
The feeling of ‘teleportation’ is therapeutic on its own since it allows us to ‘escape’ from sad realities in life which impact our health and overall well-being.
The negative energy in life such as stress, anxiety, anger, pain, and other emotional drawbacks are known to accelerate the risks of illnesses such as stroke and heart diseases. Stress for one, increases the risk of stroke and heart complications by 50 and 40 percent, respectively, according to statistics by The American Institute of Stress. The report goes on to state,
Stress is the basic cause of 60% of all human illness and disease
.. and typically leads to high mortality rates.
Of course, it is next to impossible to eliminate stress, since life challenges follow us everywhere we go. Worse still, they come bundled with all kinds of stress-inducing agents! But here is the good news. Engaged reading for even 6 minutes a day, of any material, is known to reduce stress levels by 68%. This is according to a 2009 research by scientists at Mindlab International – UK.
It really doesn’t matter what book you read, by losing yourself in a thoroughly engrossing book, you can escape from the worries and stresses of the everyday world and spend a while exploring the domain of the author’s imagination. – Dr David Lewis
Other health benefits derived from regular reading:
- Reading a real book before going to bed is good for sleep
- Reading improves the quality of memory and concentration
- Reading is good for mental wellness because it can slow down or prevent Alzheimer’s and dementia
- When we read wide and specifically about health-related matters, we make informed decisions on nutrition and health matters
Reading is actually more therapeutic than music or a walk down the street and is great for all-round mental, emotional, social and psychological growth. It puts a smile on our faces, which makes us happy. Reading material that makes us happy ultimately improves our subjective wellbeing.
This is how Wikipedia explains subjective well-being (SWB):
2. Reading Wide Makes Us Better Communicators
Communication in its traditional sense is a medium of verbal interaction between two persons, or a political discourse between a leader and his people. It also includes non-verbal and written engagements between the employer and employees.
Communication also constitutes engagements with news outlets such as the television, newsprint media and the Internet. In its original sense communication is boosted tremendously through reading in the following ways:
- We enrich our vocabulary, learn idiomatic expressions, and develop language competence
- We become knowledgeable about extensive subjects in order to communicate from an informed point of view
- We develop a better understanding of other people and cultures for better interactions
- Wide reading stimulates the brain which sharpens our communication skills
Communication has however evolved considerably in the last few years. It is now centered around digital transportation of information via ubiquitous electronic forms. From wearable devices to online bots, and the Internet of Things (IoT), we now share information instantly, and on-demand.
This is good news for our children, but probably not enough! Their ability to appreciate and master the emerging realities is dependent on the knowledge they acquire through extensive reading.
3. Reading Wide Makes us More Productive
The workforce is definitely the most important asset any business possesses. The input of employees will lead to the success or failure of the business entity. With this in mind, it is important to ensure the employees are operating at their very best.
Apart from the obvious factors of remuneration and environment, the need to have workers keeping tabs on professional trends is quite important. One way this can be achieved is through extensive reading because it keeps us relevant and provides motivation for increased output.
A persistent reader will become productive in different ways:
- A reader who is experiencing a heightened sense of subjective well-being which happens as a result of reading is motivated to perform better at work.
- A lifelong learner (reader) who is a teacher, is better placed to provide relevant information and learning experience to learners.
- A leader that reads wide is more articulate in communication and falls back to past experiences to make informed decisions.
- An executive that reads plenty of relevant books collaborates with and handles his team better based on habits mastered from the stories of previous executives.
- Reading increases the likelihood that co-workers and peers collaborate better since they have information to share and books to pass around.
- Reading makes us more creative and focused in our vocations
4. Reading Wide Makes Us Knowledgeable
It goes without saying that people who read wide tend to have a deeper grasp of general information. They always have something to say about many things: a jack of all trades you may say. Besides garnering lots of theoretical information, many readaholics actually become practical in various skill areas. After all the more you know and read, the more you yearn to learn and do! And like Dr. Suess correctly said,
The more you read, the more things you will know. The more that you learn, the more places you’ll go.I Can Read With My Eyes Shut!
Good readers contextually observe a lot in life and choose to respond to various challenges and stimuli by connecting dots here and there. They co-exist better in multicultural settings, they are sociable, eat better, communicate better and understand fast. They quickly tell a lie from the truth!
This is very important today given that information online has fallen victim to adulteration and fake news. There is a growing pile of lies and incomplete data, which is affecting our overall well-being.
Ultimately a wide reader is
- sociable and fun
- more at ease
- good in memory retention
5. We Write Better When We Read Wide
It is no secret that all great and aspiring writers of our times have always been ardent readers. They spend countless hours going through books, journals, periodicals, experiences, and inner thoughts in order to write compelling work.
There is no way we can write without reading!
Author Stephen King wrote,
If you don’t have time to read, you don’t have the time (or the tools) to write. Simple as thatOn Writing
If we want our children to write better when they grow up, now is probably the time to get them started. We are not necessarily preparing them to become great writers such as Stephen King, but setting them on the road to putting words to paper or tablet without struggling.
However, witing is perhaps one of the most neglected skills today and continues to affect businesses worldwide. In a study carried out by the American CollegeBoard, technology companies spend $3 billion on training its employees on how to write effectively. The implication is that many youths who graduate from Universities and Colleges are not well prepared to write proficiently.
Effective writing skills will
- make us communicate more effectively
- allow us to write better emails, reports, records, etc
- make us write better researches
- make us better readers too
Writing is ultimately an opportunity for us to communicate our inner thoughts, according to novelist Natalie Goldberg:
Write what disturbs you, what you fear, what you have not been willing to speak about. Be willing to be split open.Thunder and Lightning: Cracking Open the Writer’s Craft
Below is how reading helps you achieve writing excellence:
- Reading lets you learn from other writers
- It sharpens your language for better writing
- It gives you the inspiration to write
Our Role as Parents
Children and the youth need reminders about the importance of deep reading, where the mind is fully immersed in the content being read. It should not get disrupted by a series of hyperlinks, emojis, and images. They have a future of information to harness which they are to extend even to the next generations.
But ‘enforcing’ the reading culture is no mean fit. Often times it fails if we are poor readers ourselves! We can only ignite the reading culture when we are passionate about reading and have cultivated the right reading environment at home. For example, we need to have a vibrant and extensive library and engage in family reading sessions. In these sessions, we can read for our children, and allow them to read for us.
Children should be encouraged to read an upward of 2 hours a day, in order to develop a voluntary reading culture. They may not achieve this time-frame at the start but will get along soon enough with consistency on our part. The two-hour time frame should be inclusive of the time they spend reading at school, and at home.
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