The gift of reading

Note:  If you are one of my children, stop reading this article now!  I’ll wait while you click out of the page …

  1. It’s about a week before Christmas. Among some other things, I bought each of my children several books that are wrapped and put under the tree. I’m glad to say my kids have good manners a southe will be polite about it, but I would not be surprised if those books get by far the least appreciation of any other gifts this year.

I selected 4 books for each of them, ranging from fiction to motivational, cookbooks to trivia. Each book was selected with thought, care and deliberation. Reading is so important … I don’t much care what they read as long as they read. Of course, they all read what their schools require, but that’s not enough to create a habit of reading.

Readers

Frequently, people who are “readers” can be identified by their ‘Book Lover” or “Word Nerd” coffee mugs, bookstore tote bags, bookmark scattered everywhere, and the constant presence of some book stashed nearby … or a Kindle device always at hand. (Did you ever notice the ones in the merchandise section on my website?)

It really isn’t hard to join the readers of the world. Borrow or buy a book, borrow or buy an ebook,  and you’re fully equipped. For many people in the world it is not so easy to get access to books. There is a lot to address with that issue, and many things we can all do to help. I will be going into depth about that issue in an upcoming article,  and providing information about ways many of us can help is the cause of literacy and providing access to books.

As a person who has always loved to read, for a long time it was difficult for me to understand why many others don’t share that enjoyment.  There are countless studies showing that leisure reading is linked to a wide range of academic, professional and personal benefits. I have frequently read reports that a big factor in whether or not a person become a lifelong reader is the degree to which reading is valued by the family into which a person is born. I really can’t dispute all of the research out there supporting this conclusion. However, I can totally reassure you that such is not always the case.

I grew up reading multiple books per week from the time I was a young kid. My husband was somebody who read a couple of books a month. We always read to our children, took them to bookstores, took them to the library. The 3 of them each started reading at young ages because books were a constant in their lives. Yet currently only one of them seems to read at all for leisure these days. So, each of them is receiving several books for Christmas, carefully chosen with an eye toward what might interest them. Motivational, mystery, fantasy, historical anecdotes, American trivia, particular types of cookbooks, and so forth. It’s all reading, and it’s all good.

Facts about readers

Research studies show that some people are more likely than others to become habitual readers. Those whose personalities are even a little bit introverted are more likely to be readers then are those who are extroverts. People who live in urban areas read more than people in rural areas, according to statistics. Young girls read earlier than boys do, and adult women typically read more than adult men. People who are more economically stable read more than those who are not.  The more education someone has, the more likely that person is to be a reader. Several of these things are clearly economically driven.

I have read research studies that find that recreational reading can improve relationships with others, increase empathy, and improve our sense of connectedness to the community and the world. It can lessen symptoms of depression, delay dementia or reduce its impact, lower levels of depression  and improve overall wellbeing.

According to surveys done by the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) in 2017, approximately 53% of American adults read at least one book for recreational purposes in the previous 12 months. That would have been about 125 million people.

In terms of percentages, more of the American population would have been considered big readers between the mid-19th and mid-20th centuries. Printing technology had advanced a lot, which made books more widely accessible and less expensive. Plus, there was no television, radio or internet vying for a claim on the time and attention of the population. You couldn’t make a TikTok, watch a reality TV show or stream a movie, but you could enjoy a book.

 

My kids and reading

Reading has repeatedly been shown to be linked to success in school, success on tests and in stressful situations, and emotional well-being. This campaign started in the mid-1960s and is still going strong even though the logo is certainly different now:

Parents are bombarded by the messaging that reading is a vital important skill for children to have. A lot of television shows for very young children include different ways to support adults in helping children learn to read, by familiarizing them with the alphabet and exciting them about reading.  Look familiar?

And if you have children or grandchildren, nieces or nephews, you have probably seen toys like this:

Literally, from the time I was pregnant with my first child my husband and I discussed how important was for our kids to read and enjoy books.  As I wrote at the beginning of this article, we raised them with books as part of their daily life and our home.  I think my husband and I each read this book, for example, what felt like at least 1000 times …

While looking for another picture, I just found this one, taken when my husband read Sabrina’s favorite book to her class. 💙

And even so, currently 2 out of my 3 children are not very interested in reading – they only do it when they have to do it. A few years ago I even got each of them a small Kindle device for Christmas, thinking that if they could read on an electronic device it would be more familiar for them because they are so comfortable using things with screens. Nope. Those devices ended up being given to other people because I certainly wasn’t going to waste them when my kids didn’t use them. Even my kid who does the most reading out of the 3 didn’t like it … preferring to hold books in hand. And I understand that, but you can’t blame a mom for trying, right?

I read through Kindle every day so I figured it was worth a shot.

Summoning up the persistence that parents have, I am definitely not giving up on getting them all to be recreational readers. I’ll let you know how the Christmas books are received… fingers crossed!

And keep an eye on my social media pages for the next book giveaway to be announced the week of Christmas 2020.

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1 thought on “The gift of reading”

  1. I now see why you are such an interesting writer, Denise! I’ve always known that good readers make good writers. I wanted desperately to read when I was a teenager but didn’t have the opportunity to buy fiction books or novels as in my family that was considered a big luxury item. My parents didn’t have money to waste on buying books other than what I needed for my school or college. I grew up in a third world country and books were a treasure- you treasured them, bound them up in brown paper before you started reading them, wrote your name on them so you wouldn’t lose them, and made sure whoever borrowed them returned them in pristine condition. I recalled all the books I read as a teenager because they were so few in number. How I wish I could have read more then!

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