Fostering rounded development for children through early reading culture
• ‘Celebrate Stories. Love Reading’ Is Theme For World Book Day 2018
As organisations and individuals look set to celebrate this year’s World Book and Copy Right Day 2018 on April 23, a day symbolically dedicated to world literature, the need to situate children at the heart of a reading and literary culture cannot be overemphasised. Interestingly, the theme for this year’s celebration ‘Celebrate Stories. Love Reading’ a is telling reminder that Nigeria needs to revive its flagging book culture, especially reading, if the country is to attain competitive edge at the global arena, particularly in a world increasingly ruled by cutting-edge technological innovation.
For example, Olubunmi Aboderin Talabi’s children’s books, The Tobi Series, Kobi the Antelope and Diary of a Toddler, published under Clever Clogs imprint, which she launched recently, provide a starting point for most parents still at a loss how to engage their children this holiday season with quality books that can stimulate their appetite for reading. At the launch, Talabi said these books tell the children’s own stories, interpret the world through their own eyes and promote their own (African/Nigerian) values.
According to her, “I write my books to promote our own stories, develop our own narrative and give our children wholesome protagonists, who look like them and live in their kind of environment. I want these book to be bedtime story favourites for children across the country.”
Reading is one of the basic and most important learning processes for every child. Parents ensure that as soon as a child reaches the age of two, different tools and techniques are deployed as part of speech development and growth for the child. This way, children are taught to cultivate the habit of reading from an early age.
Developing an early reading culture means fostering a love for reading, and incorporating the habit into a child’s everyday life. Decades ago, people lived to read. Libraries were often stocked with books to encourage people to read. Trains were filled with travellers’ nose deep in newspapers, and even children were thrilled by the idea of story time. Consequently, the knowledge acquired helped improve the quality of life of people.
It is often said that reading is to the mind what exercise is to the body. Unfortunately, a large number of minds have not and are not being ‘exercised,’ as much as they should because people find it difficult to cultivate an avid reading culture today. As a result, young people often fall behind in their schoolwork, struggle with soft skills, and even suffer from low self-esteem. It is therefore important to form an early reading habit in children and to help with their mental development, amongst other things.
Firstly and for neurological reasons, it is important to engage children to read at an early age, as studies have shown that at the first six years of a child’s life, there is an incredibly fast learning pace. This is as a result of the billions of active brain cells and neurons waiting to be stimulated by knowledge. There is no better time to teach a child basic skills such as language, reading, speaking and writing. Also at this grasping age, children begin to form habits, which in most cases, remain with them forever. Helping a child to love reading books at this stage ensures that they will keep reading all their lives.
Dr. Seuss Geisel once said, “The more you read the more things you will know. The more you learn, the more places you will go.”
Teaching children to read will ensure that children are knowledgeable, and it gives them an unquenchable thirst for knowledge, allowing them to have an understanding of so many subjects at a young phase in their lives. Reading books to children is one of the keys to their academic future because reading is at the heart of all forms of education.
Encouraging an early reading culture will ensure a sharper and longer attention span, improve their mental awareness and lexicon, and refine their writing skills. Children are able to focus better and for longer periods of time when they read or are being read to, because of the sequential narrative style of most books — a beginning, middle, and end. It encourages the brain to think similarly in sequence, thus allowing children to pay more attention to activities they engage in rather than rush through each detail. As for vocabulary, reading introduces to children new words they may not come across every day. In fact, language in children’s books is likely to be more sophisticated than an adult’s average conversation. Reading books is key to helping children develop their language, as well as other languages they may be interested in learning.
According to Talabi, Clever Clogs will seek to reshape children’s literature industry and showcase positive scenarios about the Nigerian culture. She said the company would embark on a book tour to schools across Lagos to interact with children about the benefits of developing a healthy reading culture from an early age. She said that this year’s World Book Day would encourage a perfect story time and bonding session between parents and children, as well as assist their cognitive development.
Reading enhances analytical thinking and academic achievement. Reading skill is necessary for academic success. Training a child to read fiction, non-fiction, or even newspapers can make them smart enough to have an understanding of the world around them. They will also apply this to schoolwork and will find reading for examinations a breeze. Elon Musk, an engineer and CEO of SpaceX once confessed in an interview with Esquire that he learnt how to build space craft just by reading textbooks!
Creativity is not left out, as research has shown that young readers are creative thinkers. Reading beautifully illustrated materials can expose children to a world of imagination and spark the interests in sundry things. Reading is a path to exploration, and through the pages of books they are fond of children are able to unlock their true potential and interests. They will easily have a clearer expression of their ideas, and begin generating innovations, which could even decide their career paths in future.
An early reading culture also fosters cultural awareness in the minds of young readers because children can easily become aware of the world they live in through the books they read. They can begin to relate with their immediate environment, culture and history, especially through books with themes and locales specifically unique to them. For example, writer and publisher of Nigerian children’s picture books, Talabi, through her book series, appropriates the Nigerian way of life to suit the understanding of Nigeria for children. Reading her books engages children to see themselves first as Nigerians, through the characters that look just like them. Children are able to learn their cultural values, local dishes, and even health habits to cultivate just by reading books that they love. Reading can indeed create a well-rounded child.
Just like the city of Port Harcourt in 2014, the city of Athens, Greece, was chosen this year for the quality of its activities, supported by the entire book industry. The aim is to make books accessible to the city’s entire population, including migrants and refugees.