Plenty of things can get between a child and a good book – TV, video games and even kid-friendly cell phone apps.
But despite all those potential distractions, there’s still a place in every child’s home for the printed word and such characters as Tom Sawyer, Winnie-the-Pooh, and Curious George.
“Even in the digital age, the physical book is not outdated, and only the ones with shallow content will become so,” says J.L. Baumann, author of Mackenzie Goes Adventuring, a picture book that stresses the importance of education.
“The more universal the book’s message and the more philosophically stimulating the work is, the greater the piece will stand the test of time.”
Introducing books to children at even the youngest age pays off. Research that was presented at the 2017 Pediatric Academic Societies Meeting showed that reading books with a child beginning in early infancy can boost vocabulary and reading skills four years later, before the start of elementary school.
Baumann is a big proponent of reading aloud, adding a theatrical flair that brings his characters to life when he reads his own books to children.
He has a few tips for getting children excited about reading:
Make plenty of books available. A lack of access to a large selection of books at home can make a difference in how much children read, according to the biannual “Kids and Family Reading” report that Scholastic released earlier this year. Children who are frequent readers, devouring books for fun five to seven days a week, have on average a whopping 141 children’s books in their homes. Those who read for fun one day or less each week have an average of 65 books in their homes – still a lot, but not quite enough, according to the study. “It will cost about $20 to take two children to lunch with you at McDonald’s, a meal that will be forgotten in no time,” Baumann says. “You could use that same money for a book that could become a cherished possession.” And if money is an issue, a weekly visit to the library can help.
- Let the child choose. Children are more likely to be enthusiastic about books if they get to choose what they read – even if an adult is unimpressed with the literary choice. “As they come to love reading, children will be more apt to choose books with more substance,” Baumann says. “But the first step is just to get them excited.”
- Don’t be dissuaded by complex illustrations. Some adults seem to think it best that children’s picture books have simple drawings that don’t challenge the child, but Baumann thinks they are selling the children short. “Children will notice the smallest thing in detailed artwork,” Baumann says. “Children can appreciate art that adults sometimes think is too sophisticated for them. If a book has intricate artwork with a lot going on, the children are likely to discover something new each time they return to the book.”
“Reading helps children in so many ways,” Baumann says. “It improves their vocabulary. It increases their knowledge. It prepares them for school and is a skill they need for every subject. But also, it’s just plain fun and gives them the opportunity to stretch their imaginations and enjoy the adventures waiting for them between those two covers.”