Written By Gbanaibolou Burutolu
“A rule of thumb for predicting future success is to know the number of books in the home.”
What’s the Big Deal About Reading Lots of Great Books?
C. S. Lewis once said, “We read to know we are not alone.” What this means to me is that, through books, more than through any other medium, I can have conversations with the minds of other people–how they think, what they believe, what they value. And more important, I can find out more about myself. There is something identifying and affirming to realize that other people have thought the same thoughts, had the same struggles, felt the same longings.
Reading also provides a window on the world. Robert Lewis Stevenson wrote, “There is no frigate like a book,” meaning books can take you to times and places that you could never go in real life. I can read Perelandra and be on Venus or Ben Hur and be in the Roman Empire at the time of Christ or Cold Sassy Tree and feel what it was like to live in a small town in Georgia in the early 1900s.
From an educational perspective, being well-read places you in the small percentage of people who have a broader perspective of life–the movers and shakers of the world. Why? Because readers have superior language and thinking skills. They also know about life outside their narrow slice of it. They can see both the “big picture” and the details and keep a sense of perspective because they have read enough to expand their minds beyond the parameters of their own lives.
What Do We Want to Communicate About Reading?
There are four main concepts we want to communicate to our children about reading: (1) Written words have value because they are a vital communication tool; (2) Written words can be personally enjoyable; (3) Written words increase understanding and power over the world; and (4) Reading is something most people can easily learn to do. We communicate these concepts through:
Having a print rich environment. This simply means our house is full of good things to read.
Reading aloud to the child from an early age, pointing out simple words, running a finger from left to right under the lines of print, and encouraging the child that soon he will be able to read these books himself.
Letting the child see you read. Children take their cues about what is worthwhile from their parents. If the parents seldom read, the children assume reading is not a valuable activity. Boys need to see their fathers read.
Letting the child see you attach value to books. This not only means that you have your own library of personal “treasures,” but it also means that the child sees you enjoy reading and knows you go to books for answers to questions you have.
If books are to become an important part of your child’s world, they must appear to be important to you. It is difficult to convince a child who never sees his or her parents with a book that reading a pleasurable activity, and self-education is a worthwhile use of time.
Many parents lament that their daughters become avid readers, but their sons are totally disinterested. Our question to these parents is: Do your children ever see their father read? Boys who only see Mom read begin to associate reading with feminine activities.
Fathers we have posed this question to give all sorts of excuses for not reading–they don’t have time, they are slow readers, they can’t find anything they want to read, they don’t like reading, and so on. If you are a father who doesn’t enjoy personal reading, consider reading aloud to your children books that they enjoy. This way they can see you interacting with books, even if you don’t read much yourself.
The Benefits of a Print Rich Environment
It has been proven that children who grow up in homes where they have access to lots of good books for them to read whenever they choose have naturally superior language art skills.
For those reasons, we say READ, READ, READ; WRITE, WRITE, WRITE; and TALK, TALK, TALK. A child who hears English properly used at home and consistently reads well-written literature will automatically internalize correct grammar, word usage, capitalization, punctuation, and spelling and will also develop an extensive vocabulary.
If that weren’t enough to convince you that reading is one of the most important activities your child can do, Cradles of Eminence studied common factors in the childhoods of 400 eminent men and women and concluded: “A rule of thumb for predicting future success is to know the number of books in the home.” With this in mind, you may want to slowly but surely build your own home library of proven favorites.
Although it may seem easier and cheaper to simply check books out from the library, children love to read and read and reread their favorites, and they take pleasure in having copies of books that have become their special friends. Also, if you have a large family, the books become an investment to be passed down to each succeeding child, and perhaps even to grandchildren.
Gbanaibolou Burutolu is a passionate lover of Christ and studied at University of East London.