Thursday, March 8, 2012

Please Read to the Children

I read the article Reading to Kids in Decline in UK this morning.  It has shocked me in recent years to learn how few people read at all these days.  Many adults have not picked up a book since they were assigned one in school.  I have friends who told me, "Tell me when the movie comes out," when they found out I wrote books.  Way too many friends.  It made it difficult for me to find proofreaders.  Everyone was too busy or claimed they didn't like to read.  I have trouble understanding this point of view because I've always read anything and everything I can get my hands on.

There is a plague of poor grammar and spelling in modern society.  Many native English speakers are not even fluent in their own primary language anymore.  Don't believe me?  Spend some time on Facebook.  You can't comprehend the world around you if you can't interpret the words necessary to describe it.  We need to break out of the trend of willful societal ignorance if humanity is ever going to accomplish anything beyond petty bickering, warfare, and mere survival.  Language and literacy give us tools to not only understand the world, but also to understand each other.  Reading shows us new perspectives, without which we are left unable to empathize with our philosophically diverse neighbors.

We need to make a conscious effort to salvage education and literacy for the next generation.  Read to your children.  It surprises me how many people don't.  I know people who have maybe two or three books for their young children and sometimes even fewer for themselves.  My household has hundreds.  Make a habit of reading to your children right from birth and let them see you reading on your own as well.  Don't think you have time?  Feeding time is and excellent opportunity for reading aloud to babies.  They don't care what you read.  It can be a magazine, a cereal box, a children's book, or whatever you are currently reading.  They need to hear your voice and reading helps them develop their early grammar, vocabulary, and comprehension skills.  It is absolutely necessary to read to children to develop their young minds, and there is no excuse for neglecting that aspect of their cognitive development.  Ebooks can be great compliments to a child's library, but they need physical books as well.  They need to see and touch the pictures and pages to trigger development in different areas of their brains.

My children are being raised on Seuss and Sagan, L'Engle, Pratchett, Gaiman, and the Berenstains.  My toddler has recently started "reading" books back to us, a huge milestone in pre-literacy.  I started reading to him on his first day.  He had four words by nine months old, and at twenty-seven months, he has an extensive vocabulary, speaks in sentences, and has a good sense of plurals and grammar.  Now, some of that may be a result of his innate intelligence and personality, but I also know that nurturing the language centers of his brain from the very beginning contributed to his development.  Children learn by seeing, hearing, and doing.  He sees and hears me read, and now he is gradually working toward doing it on his own.  He loves his books and always sleeps with at least one in his bed at night.  My daughter is being read to as well, and I look forward to seeing how her language skills develop compared to her brother.  That might be my psychology background speaking, but that is okay.  Life is a series of causes and effects, and reading to your children has a life-long effect on them.  They can't change the world for the better without a having foundation on which to construct their structures.

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