• Reading takes our children into places where their imaginations can soar, where they can problem-solve, empathize and gain insight into other times, places and cultures. As Barb Kissick, children's librarian at Confederation Centre Public Library in Charlottetown, states, "A child who reads taps into the collective knowledge of a culture." Children can enter into the minds of different characters and experience their points of view and motives – and the consequences that might result from their actions.
• Cheryl Urback, an early literacy specialist in Toronto, puts it simply: "The more children read, the better their reading skills become." She also points out a strong connection between reading and writing. "By reading at home, children are also gaining knowledge into how written language works. This, in turn, may help their writing skills."
Create a family book club
There are many great children's books or short stories that the whole family could enjoy reading. Ask your local librarian or bookstore owner for suggestions, taking into account the ages, reading levels and interest levels of everyone in your family. Sound impossible? You'd be surprised how many children's stories or novels will tweak the imagination of your kids and teens and also engage you.
• Readers from age nine and up in your family might enjoy Neil Gaiman's Coraline, any books in Ann Cameron's Julian series, Charlotte's Web by E.B. White, or any of the stories in The Complete Tales of Winnie-the-Pooh by A. A. Milne.
• If your youngest child is over 11, invite all family members to crack open the historical fiction of Rosemary Sutcliffe, enjoy children's classics such as Lassie Come Home, Treasure Island, Anne of Green Gables, The Story of Doctor Dolittle, Mary Poppins or The Outsiders, or dip into the stories included in The Jungle Book or in the many Roald Dahl collections. Borrow or purchase several copies of the selection, and pick a time over the winter or summer holidays to allow enough time for everyone to read it.
• If all your children aren't ready to tackle reading above a certain level, pair up and arrange some read-aloud sessions to make sure everyone is up to speed for the book talk.
• When everyone has finished, set aside a special afternoon or evening for the club meeting. Create a comfortable, cosy atmosphere. Prepare special snacks. Unplug the phone. Make one rule: no laughing at anyone else's opinions. Then encourage each person to share his or her view of the book.
• Get your kids reading
• Encourage a love of reading
• Top 10 child literacy spoilers
This story was originally titled "Why is reading important for kids of all ages?" in the February 2006 issue of Canadian Living.
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