Have Your Children Experience the Joy of Reading Books

by Jonathan Dickman, MD, PhD, with contributions from Joseph and Rachel Dickman
The magic of books is a wonderful thing to behold. I often find my children on the couch with a book in their hands flipping through the pages. These are some of the times where our house is the most quiet and serene. Don’t get me wrong, we have a television, but it is in a lonely corner and only gets turned on a handful of times a year. Screens feed people fast-paced images and decrease our ability to focus and be creative. Instead of screen time, we have focused on reading and enjoying the stories they contain. As I saw my children sitting on the couch, I asked my 7-year old son (Joseph) what he thought about books and he told me:
“I like to get deep in a book, because they can have mysteries, which I love. You can learn from them. Sometimes they are so interesting, that I read them over and over again.” He also wanted all children to be aware that Geronimo Stilton and Dog Man are his favorites. He can go through these books so fast that we frequent the public libraries each month. Local public libraries offer free opportunities to engage the mind in thinking through stories, learning language and enhancing imagination.
My daughter, Rachel, also enjoys books and got started early. When she learned that Joseph was supposed to read at least 20 minutes every day, she did not want to be left behind. At 3 years old she started reading basic stories on her own. Now at the age of 5, she loves to read out loud with expression and emotion, and laugh at the jokes in books. Her rapid language development was, in a large part, due to books. She told me “It is exciting, I can learn a lot.”
So how do you get your kids to love books? Initially, there is a time investment for parents. Kids start to love books because they are a means to interact with their parents. In case you have not noticed, kids constantly crave the attention of adults. Sometimes, I watch other parents looking at the screens of their phone at the playground while their children get wilder and wilder, hoping to tear their parent away from the screen and pay attention to them. Books encourage interaction as parents read to their children. At a young age, children listen to and watch their parents read the words as they try to figure out how to speak themselves. Later, children often pay more attention to the pictures as they try to think about the story, to anticipate what comes next and to eventually figure out how to read on their own. At some point, you might find your kids picking up a book on their own and using the stories that they read as a way to unwind after a busy day at school.
Thanks to public libraries, children have free access to books and non-stop entertainment. Visit your local library today to open the possibilities of mysteries, action and laughs. At United Family Medicine, we also give a book at each well child appointment (between 6 months and 5 years) because we understand just how important reading is to the young developing mind. There are so many ways to get started, so make a plan to pick up a book today.

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