The desire to win a Golden Ticket to Willy Wonka’s Chocolate Factory, eagerly awaiting your letter for Hogwarts, checking rabbit holes very carefully for Mad Hatters and lost girls… These are all magical experiences that many young fiction readers have enjoyed, but there are so many more benefits to reading than just finding great pleasure in stories.
Becoming a master with words
Books are fantastic teachers of vocabulary and language. When children read books – or have books read to them – they are exposed to more words. A child who reads for one minute per day will read around 8,000 words per year, but reading for twenty minutes per day will equate to roughly 1,800,000 words per year.
Why is it so important that children read so many words? The size of a child’s vocabulary is directly linked to their success within education. A bigger vocabulary makes it easier to learn about other subjects, and it’s been shown that these children gain higher results in tests or exams.
It’s not just real words that count, either. In books by David Walliams or Roald Dahl, there are onomatopoeic and/or nonsense words, which children are tested on in phonics programmes. These texts help children continue to sound out words and use what they’ve learned.
Reading can help children to develop their imagination and empathy. When reading about characters, we try to understand them and how they’re feeling.
Children may also be able to use experiences they’ve come across in stories to apply to real life, helping them navigate potentially tricky situations. Hundreds of books have been written specifically to address feelings or emotions about particular events. When children are starting school, they may have stories read to them about characters who have experienced the same thing. This helps children to identify and cope with those feelings. Books such as Tony Ross’ series of The Little Princess books are perfect for this purpose.
Discovering fantastical and not too-distant worlds
In fiction, we are able to experience other cultures and worlds. A child who has seen very little of the world will come across fantastic landscapes through the power of stories. The first time a child reads The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe, not only do they discover the incredible snow-covered scenes of cursed Narnia, but they also briefly explore war-torn England.
There is so much choice out there for children’s literature. From favourite classics to newer books exploring modern themes, there are stories which will capture the imaginations – and hearts – of all children. Once a child has learned to enjoy reading, it is possible to find a range of books which will tap into any interest. Surround children with beautifully written, visually stimulating from an early age and watch as they develop a lifelong love of reading!