Read, read, read everything: why encourage your children to read

read books

Why should children read?

In a world of iPhones, Facebook, WiFi and, Netflix, when is the last time your child picked up a book? Everyone seems to have lost touch with the world of the written word but reading is an incredible pleasure when presented with the right book. Here are some reasons why reading is important as well as, some must-reads you can encourage your children to dive into (and perhaps give as a Christmas present).

Why read?

1. Increasing vocabulary

The first, and perhaps most noticeable benefit from the outside, is an increased vocabulary and mastery of language. Learning new words and means of expression is a process. We move from a passive use (understanding what something means) to an active use (actually using it ourselves). As your children read, they will learn to figure out the meanings of words through context. They’ll come across countless, exciting ways to describe all sorts of different situations and emotions. Eventually, they will naturally adopt these and be able to use them.

2. Improve cognitive skills

Reading is also an act of discipline. Watching a film is easy – just sit back and soak it all up. Reading with purpose takes focus and concentration. Everyone is familiar with the feeling of having read the same sentence multiple times without actually processing it. Extracting meaning from writing is a skill and one that your children can transfer to general areas of cognition necessary for other unrelated tasks, such as attention and inhibition.

3. Increase intelligence

Reading improves your memory. Absorbing information and reflecting on it is a method of ‘exercise’ for the brain. Lots of studies have shown a positive correlation between regular reading and academic achievement.

4. Expand knowledge

Reading books by authors from different walks of life will give your children a wider understanding of different people’s perspectives. It will educate them on relationships, emotions, society, diversity etc.

5. A method of relaxation

Reading is fun and provides a way for your children to closing off the stress of the world; replacing any stress or worry with fantasy or science or philosophy or politics. Dwarfed by the enormity of technology and social media, we’ve simply forgotten reading is still as big (even bigger!) an option as it ever was. The enthusiasm and open-mindedness your children will undoubtedly show will advance their opportunities and help them meet new people.

What to read?

Watership Down by Richard Adams

A story about a warren of rabbits who make a vast migration to Watership Down due to a prophetic vision by one of the youngest rabbits, Fiver. Along the way, they encounter a vast sea of obstacles, including things we would never think about (like crossing a road). It is a story about adventure, and in many ways, it is a story about storytelling. Adams has said, “It was just meant to be a story, and it remains that.” This book is not one to be read for its deeper meaning (although it parallels the state of British politics). It is meant to be read for the sheer enjoyment of the tale.

Ithaka by Adele Geras

Many years have passed since the end of the Trojan War, and Penelope is still waiting for her husband, Odysseus, to return home. The city of Ithaka is overrun with uncouth suitors from the surrounding islands who are vying to win Penelope’s hand in marriage, thereby gaining control of the land. When a naked, half-drowned man washes up on the beach, everything changes.

It’s Kind of a Funny Story by Ned Vizzini

So much is known and understood about visible, physical injury and disabilities. However, despite 1 in 5 adults in the UK suffering from depression, mental health problems, receive far less consideration. Ned Vizzini’s book is based on the author’s real experience of staying in a psychiatric hospital. Told by 16 year old Craig, who lives a perfectly normal life in Brooklyn. However, academic stress soon builds up into an eating disorder. This leads to depression and suicidal thoughts until he is admitted to a psychiatric hospital. Through the comic voice of Craig, Vizzini shows us how dark someone’s life can get but also how bravely they can struggle to see the light again.

The Yearling by Marjorie Kinnan

The Yearling follows the friendship between a 12-year old boy, Jody, and an abandoned fawn, Flag. Throughout the novel we see the two of them grow up together, in the Floridian backcountry, all the while struggling with the cusp between adulthood and childhood. As their connection blossoms, Jody is continuously faced with the darkness of the world his father has tried to shield him from.

The Power by Naomi Alderman

The world is a recognisable place: there’s a rich Nigerian kid who larks around the family pool; a foster girl whose religious parents hide their true nature; a local American politician; a tough London girl from a tricky family. But something vital has changed, causing their lives to converge with devastating effect. Teenage girls now have immense physical power – they can cause agonising pain and even death. And, with this small twist of nature, the world changes utterly.

The Fault in Our Stars, John Green

“The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars, but in ourselves” goes the famous quote from Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar. In John Green’s novel, cancer-suffers Hazel and Augustus are truly victims of an uncontrollable fate. A modern tale of star-crossed lovers. Hazel and Gus fall in love despite the world, and their bodies’ tragic countdown, conspiring against them. Green, through Hazel’s witty narrative, invites us into a lesser-known world of grief and pain. Endless medication and hospital visits, and the constant fear of imminent death. Throughout it all, however, is a teenager who’s trying to come to terms with both the abnormality of her illness with the normality of growing up and falling in love.

The Man in the High Castle by Philip K Dick

It’s America in 1962. Slavery is legal once again. The few Jews who still survive hide under assumed names. In San Francisco the I Ching is as common as the Yellow Pages. All because some 20 years earlier the United States lost a war, and is now occupied jointly by Nazi Germany and Japan. An enthralling and captivating read, presenting an alternate vision of the end of World War 2.

20,000 Leagues Under the Sea by Jules Verne

We think that many of the classic books involve petticoats and fine china (many of them do), but this one certainly doesn’t. Following the journey of Aronnax, it all starts off with a bang. Or rather a splash, as he and his servant are thrown out of a ship (not on purpose). They wind up, not at the bottom of the sea, but inexplicably on the deck of another. They soon find out they are not on a ship at all, but a submarine captained by the bizarre Captain Nemo. It soon follows Nemo is an outcast of society and has been consigned to live out his days exploring the surface of the sea floor.

For a time the two survivors join him on his whimsical exploration diving for pearls beneath the ocean, encountering cannibals, and ultimately getting stuck in a Maelstrom. Once again this is definitely one for the adrenaline junkies out there, as this is non-stop fantastical action from start to finish.

Wonder by R. Palacio

“I wish every day could be Halloween. We could all wear masks all the time. Then we could walk around and get to know each other before we got to see what we looked like under the masks.” August’s wish comes from his facial deformities, which attract negative attention, bullying, misunderstanding, and fear. Most of the time, it’s easier for him to hide behind his favourite astronaut helmet. When he enrols in school, August learns that there is nothing shameful about being different. And it’s his friends, not the bullies, who will change his life the most.

Most importantly, as the book is through August’s eyes, the reader soon forgets he has a facial deformity. We realise that he is just a normal boy for whom bravery is not just epic acts but small, everyday efforts to survive and stay happy.

Cannery Row by John Steinbeck

The “story” of Cannery Row follows the adventures of Mack and the boys, a group of unemployed yet resourceful men who inhabit a converted fish-meal shack on the edge of a vacant lot down on the Row during the Great Depression.

Animal Farm by George Orwell

It all begins on a farm. A relatively normal farm run by a Mr. Jones, albeit a rather cruel one. The animals are driven to exhaustion, which ultimately results in a rebellion instigated by Old Major, a pig. When Old Major passed away, Snowball and Napoleon, the new leaders, launch a new coup to overthrow him – with which they are ultimately successful. The remainder of the short novel follows the evolution of Snowball and the propaganda he instigates to satiate the rest of the animals.

Ultimately it tells the story of Joseph Stalin and Leon Trotsky at the start of the Soviet Union. Even if this is not a usual area of interest, the way in which this story is told makes me believe it can be enjoyed by anyone.

Before I Fall by Lauren Oliver

Meet Sam Kingston, who is dead. After a fatal car accident, Sam gets stuck in a Groundhog Day-style loop where she must relive the day of her death over and over again. But why? Sam had it all – a handsome jock boyfriend and a group of friends who are the most popular girls in school. Yet, beneath the surface, is a darker reality of superficiality, materialism, falseness, dishonesty, and bullying. By re-living that day, Sam begins to realise that her life wasn’t as perfect as she thought and, through second, third, and fourth chances, can start to make amends.

For the reader, this unusual narrative angle of viewing a life retrospectively conveys an important message: every second in life is important, so make sure every second counts towards doing good for yourself and others.

Diary of a Teenage Girl by Phoebe Gloeckner

“I don’t remember being born. I was a very ugly child. My appearance has not improved so I guess it was a lucky break when he was attracted by my youthfulness.” So begins the wrenching diary of Minnie Goetze, a fifteen-year-old girl longing for love and acceptance and struggling with her own precocious sexuality. Minnie hates school and she wants to be an artist, or maybe a speleologist, or a bartender. She sleeps with her mother’s boyfriend, and yet is too shy to talk with boys at school. She forges her way through adolescence, unsupervised and unguided, defenceless, and yet fearless.

Lord of the Flies by William Golding

In a nutshell, it follows the events that follow a plane crash resulting in a group of young British schoolboys having to survive on a desert island. What follows is an examination of the potential for evil in everyone. Done in a powerful way, the ending ultimately shows society fails to recognize its potential – especially when it comes to children. We see them as the picture of innocence as so struggle to understand, under the right circumstances, they too can fall into its dark clutches.

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time by Mark Haddon

Christopher Boone is a Maths genius with a remarkable memory who thinks metaphors are a lie and finds people confusing. He doesn’t like touching other people, or food touching on his plate; he can’t make sense of people’s emotions but he can make sense of patterns. Christopher has autism. When he finds his neighbour’s dog staked to the lawn by a pitchfork, he tries to piece together the curious incident. Through Christopher’s eyes, readers can appreciate what it’s like to live in a world that can be confusing and scary.

1984 by George Orwell

The year 1984 has come and gone, but here’s George Orwell’s prophetic, nightmarish vision of it. A startlingly original and haunting novel that creates an imaginary world that is completely convincing. No one can deny the novel’s hold on the imaginations of whole generations, or the power of its admonitions – a power that seems to grow, not lessen, with the passage of time.

If your child enjoys this, why not try:

  • Brave New World by Aldous Huxley
  • We by Yevgeny Zamyatin

When reading, it can be fantastic to discuss your thoughts with others. Why not book your children a MyTutor session. We have many English Literature tutors to choose from. A tutor will expand their analysis and knowledge of these texts.


Written by MyTutor

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