Reading books for pleasure enables our children to thrive

[ 0 ] 14/04/2019 |

The most important thing that parents can do is talk and read to their children. During the toddler and preschool years, it is critical to provide children with different language and reading experiences.” – G. Reid Lyon

I stumbled upon this article about Finland, the world’s most literate nation, and their brand new library in Helsinki, which bends the concept of what we expect a public library to be. ‘In Helsinki – home to almost 650,000 people – there are 36 public libraries. “Libraries are the second-highest rated public service in Helsinki; the number one is drinking water,” explains Helsinki’s executive director of culture Tommi Laitio. It is enshrined in law that every Finnish municipality must have a public library, and as a result, there are 853 across the country.’


In the city I am now local, Horten in Norway, the attitude is similar. The public library is a focal point to our community. It is a place to socialize, with a small cafe-restaurant in its premises, sewing machines, lots of events and happenings, it is free of charge, and one can borrow as many books as they wish for at a time. There’s also a whole floor dedicated to the children, decorated with beautiful, colorful, inviting graffiti. There are toys and books in abundance, chill out corners with comfy sofas, coloring pages and pencils, computers, a designated area to sit down and enjoy a lunch with the little ones. It’s a place that even the local schools visit often, starting with the pre-schoolers.

Books matter. Reading for pleasure, and not because we have to, matters. It promotes literacy, it shapes our identity in a positive way, it shapes our future as societies. And we need to start early, at home.

If we look into the science of things, it has been proven that between conception and age three, a child’s brain undergoes an impressive amount of change. It doubles in size in the first year, and by age three it has reached 80% of its adult volume. By age 5, the foundation that shapes a child’s future health, happiness and growth have been laid. A child will never learn throughout her life as quickly as she does now.

There are so many studies and so much research all pointing to the direction that reading to our children from very early on, telling them stories, is paramount for their development. Literature and literacy are the direct product of a human need to understand the world by the simple act of telling stories. Humans have always been coming up with all sorts of stories, fables, and myths in order to better understand the people around them and make sense of the world. This is how the human race survived, lived, and evolved.

Faraxa Publishing

A brilliant way to help our children interiorize a strong sense of identity is by sharing traditional stories; the ones that span generations. Folklore stories and myths from our countries of origin keep the culture alive and help them connect with their roots, even when living outside the community. They can help them grow closer to their past and incorporate elements of tenderness and pride in their identity.

Also, sharing stories from cultures that aren’t their own can help them to better understand friends and classmates. Then, there are these other stories, the ones you can recite yourself, and which can be told at the most diverse moments of the day and not just before bedtime. As parents, we can use every opportunity we have to share with our child invented stories, heard stories, stories we’ve read together.

I remember growing up listening to my father telling us three stories he had come up with himself, always the same, night and night again during our dinner time. This storytelling time was so special to us that we purposefully delayed finishing our food. We never got tired of them. These very same stories are now passed on to my children.

Books are also a powerful tool for our children, helping them to make sense of their homes, communities, the world at large. Literature provides their first window to a world beyond their five senses, a world that can be magically entered by the simple act of words and illustrations putting in motion the wheels of the internal mechanism called imagination. This is how they grow and this is how they develop into individuals who can think for themselves.

There are so many books out there to choose from and as parents, it is our responsibility to present to our young ones fun stories with beautiful artwork that sparkle their curiosity and inspire them. For cross-cultural children, like mine, in particular, it can be very beneficial to pick up books with diverse characters with whom they can relate to.

Where am I from? – graffiti illustration

It is also advisable when the children start showing specific interests, to let them choose books on their own. One of our favorite family outings, for instance, is Saturday morning visits to the local library I mentioned earlier. This is an inexpensive way to introduce our kids to a variety of books before deciding which ones they really love and would like to own.

When it comes to which books are best, that I don’t know. Kids have their own personalities and their interests change as they grow. What I can tell you though is that the best books will grow with your child.  Let’s say you buy a book now​ for your 5-year-old to read to him. If it becomes a favorite, at 6 he will be reciting the words to you and by 8 he will enjoy reading it on his own, all curled up somewhere cozy at home.

With love, affection, encouragement and mental stimulation, nutritious meals and good health care, any child will most certainly thrive. These pillars form a solid foundation to develop a sense of trust and security, that turns into confidence as they grow.

Books, reading stories for pleasure, matter.

As always,

Love, Liza.

Category: Multicultural Kid, Mum's Library, Resources for Malta Mums

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