Living in a digital age offers many opportunities for our younger generation, but it can also cramp their imaginations.
One of the most dispiriting things about most modern diversions for children is that they do pretty much all the mental work.
Whether it’s a Pixar cartoon, computer game or dinky digital toy, all those bright colors, swirling images and booming sounds don’t leave much room for the individual imagination. The onset of virtual reality headsets, primed to become a big thing over the next few years, is only going to make things worse.
That’s why there are still few better sights than a child with their head buried in a book. To the casual observer, they might be just sitting there on a park bench or perched next to mom in a coffee shop – but who knows what’s going on their head?
If you could peek into their young minds, you might see that they were actually hanging on for dear life in a storm-stricken boat, taking a stroll through a dinosaur-strewn landscape, or being crowned Empress of a vast kingdom before a crowd of thousands.
Reading unlocks a child’s imagination and promotes their development like no other medium. It increases vocabulary, fosters intellectual curiosity, encourages critical thinking, and fires the creative synapses in all kinds of wonderful ways. Nothing else really compares.
Consider this: five children sitting alongside each other reading the same story will each have a completely different experience. No matter how vivid the descriptions nor how intricate the details, each reader will take in the information through the prism of their own unique imagination. That’s priceless.
Reading brings real-world benefits, too, because getting lost in make-believe stories can help young ones navigate the very real and complex world around them.
After all, the child who sits with a book and thinks very hard about just exactly why the wicked Prince betrayed the hero, and how he got the fate he deserved in the end, is learning valuable life lessons about morality and behavior that will be useful in everyday life.
Everyone who knows kids will be familiar with having to suppress a chuckle while an excited child tries breathlessly to explain a story they’ve been reading. ‘And then she escaped using the crystal but the Dorloks came after her then the other man who’d been away arrived and he had a magic stone that could stop them because…’ While often exhausting, such episodes are instructive.
What’s happening is that their young, impressionable minds are taking in new information and sensations faster than they can find words to express them. Like little sponges, they’re soaking up everything in sight. And that’s a great thing.
Over time – page after page, chapter after chapter, book after book – all those words and images and plots and new experiences bundle together, to help build a brighter and more inquisitive young person. Someone who is confident, curious and equipped to meet whatever challenges come their way.
A little reader, ready to face the world.
In honor of teachers who are inspiring the next generation of readers, please consider donating to Book Trust’s Be my Book Buddy Campaign. Simply indicate the teacher for whom you are making a donation here. The teacher and the school who raise the most money will receive gift cards in support of their classroom or school, and all donations will put more books in the hands of children.