As new parents, we are always told to read to our children if not every night, several nights during the week. Why? Is reading really that important? It certainly is and here are a few reasons why (something I discovered over the years). It goes much deeper than simply academics.
1. Helping our children love to read will help them academically
This statement is certainly true, but it goes beyond English, additional language studies, and writing. Good reading skills will help children in all subjects, even Math. For example, as Math becomes more situation-oriented (i.e. based on story problems), it will become increasingly necessary to have excellent reading skills in order to excel in Math.
2. Loving to read will ensure that your children are well rounded
In addition to helping our children excel academically, encouraging reading for enjoyment will help ensure that our children are well rounded. There is so much useful, interesting information out there today (especially on the Internet); children are bound to come across something they enjoy. If a child loves to read, he or she can then spend a lifetime learning all they can about their favorite subjects, helping to cultivate hobbies that will serve them throughout their lives.
3. Instilling a love to read will ensure that our children are never bored
This benefit goes hand and hand with #2, but it can't be stressed enough. If children love to read, they will never be bored. They can go to the library, surf on-line for new books or interests, or actually pick up a book or magazine - just for the fun of it. One of the biggest issues with reading education today is the failure to instill an innate love of reading in small children. Instead, we make it an academic chore without opening up young kids to the idea that reading can be for pleasure too. I'm not advocating changing set curriculum or not making students reading certain literature; it is simply an academic necessity.
What I'm advocating is this: Teachers and/or parents need to go out of their way to help children read for pleasure. Many times, teachers kill young students' passion for reading by over-assigning homework. On the other hand, we, as parents, often don't advocate reading as a recreational activity. If you truly want to raise a child who loves to read, it has to be encouraged as a fun, recreational activity.
4. Reading as a hobby will lead to many others
I'm living proof of this, but reading often leads to many other hobbies. For example, reading often leads to a love of writing. Writing, in turn, can lead to an intense interest in computers as a result of the advent of blogging and websites. It can become an endless cycle. If children are encouraged to read all different types of books, they will invariably come across a favorite genre or subject. This process many times leads to new hobbies.
If you have school-age children, it is a lot easier than you think to instill a love of reading. You simply need to encourage the activity and present it as something creative and fun, and not simply as an academic chore.