Written by: Steacy Pinney, CEO, Calgary Reads
Think about that moment when you were sitting on your grandmother’s lap or next to your father at bedtime as a child. She held you in the wooden rocking chair and you listened to her voice and her heart’s beat. He was falling asleep, hands stained with machine grease. You turned the pages, each time hoping for just one more.
Isn’t it intoxicating, a long-ago memory of reading with a loved one? We can’t see all the ways reading improves our state of being, but with every sentence, every bedtime story, so much is at work that brings joy and calm and wonder to both listener and reader.
The connection between reading and mental health is too powerful, too simple, to ignore. Especially now.
Why reading is so important & 5 ways to enhance reading time
What a year this has been for children: school closures, absences from family and friends and community, a pause on soccer and choir and Scouts.
Children of this generation have never needed reading more, and yet for many busy families and families far from opportunity, it has been a time away from books and family read alouds. But reading and access to books are not ‘nice to haves.’ They are necessary, and this is why.
1. Children need attention.
When you read aloud, whatever else may be going on in the world, you are concentrating all you attention on your child, on the book, and the story. Your child will understand that they matter and feel reassured.
2. Children need physical contact and affection.
Take your child on your lap or lean against one another – make reading time also a moment for cuddling. The combination of your voice and your embrace will help your child feel loved and secure.
3. Children need to feel loved and cared for.
Reading aloud is a way to show your child every day how much you care and how important it is to you to spend time together. It’s a way to hold your child close and help your child feel loved and protected.
4. Children need routine.
Read a story at bedtime, naptime, or mealtime – it will help your child know what to expect and they will feel that their day has a predictable schedule, even in unpredictable times. Routines give your child something to look forward to and help them feel more safe and secure.
The impact of reading on mental health
Family reading rituals help us cope with challenges big and small, and in special ways that are accessible to all.
Here are some of the most impactful ways our state of being benefits from reading.
Benefits when parents read aloud to their children:
- increased cognitive and social-emotional functioning
- strengthened parent-child relationship
- increased communication between parents and children, including parents’ increased receptivity to their child’s needs
- increased parental confidence and warmth
- decreased parental stress
- less harsh parenting styles and reduction in use of physical punishment
- increased likelihood of the child becoming a frequent reader
Benefits for adults and children reading on their own:
- increased empathy and understanding of others
- essential skills development (problem solving, communication, self-regulation and cognitive functioning)
- reduction of stress, anxiety, depression and loneliness
- help preparing for sleep
What Calgary Reads is doing to help children enjoy the benefits of reading right now
At Calgary Reads, we are also helping families develop and deepen their reading skills and confidence through wee read—a free, virtual and self-paced program.
We work with community partners and public health nurses to ensure all children continue to have access to quality books.
At Calgary Reads, we are fortunate to have a passionate reading community of supporters and volunteers helping to keep alive our mission of helping children experience the life-changing magic of reading. To learn more, visit calgaryreads.com.