Imagine a world of rapid change and confusion—one with less understanding and empathy than the world of your youth. Sounds a little discouraging, doesn’t it? In many ways, that imagined world is the world of today for our children. With the flicker of a screen or the tap of a finger, our children and teens can access nearly anything they can think of in a matter of seconds. Yet something sad and ironic has happened in this Information Age. Our young people—though gifted with the digital capabilities of instant access—have lost precious opportunities to experience authentic connections within their communities and develop critical thinking skills in the same way previous generations once did.
Today’s youth feel less empathy for others, have underdeveloped analytical abilities, and experience little self-reflection. Although this well-documented increase in the negative effects of technology sounds bleak, there is a great deal of hope we can harness as parents and educators. And one of the most potent antidotes presents itself in the form of a slim spine and a multitude of pages. This unassuming antidote is a book.
Nothing can do for us what literature does. Nothing can be a substitute for a good book on a rainy day. No movie, videogame, or Netflix binge can do for our children’s hearts and minds what a book can do, and the newest research in brain science and cognition proves it. Books increase our children’s vocabulary, critical thinking skills, and empathy like nothing else can. While television, scrolling social media feeds, and texting stimulate our minds passively, reading is the only comparable pastime that stimulates our minds actively. Reading builds brain matter like nothing else can.
Our brains and hearts do miraculous things while under the influence of a good book, and that is why one of the best gifts we can give our children is the love of reading—be it for learning or for pleasure. Giving a child a book gives them a brighter future and a bigger heart. It is no wonder some of our brightest minds cite “reading voraciously” as their primary influencer in their lives: think self-taught theologian A.W. Tozer, businessman Warren Buffet, or tech-giant Bill Gates. Spend time with a gripping novel, and you will see it is no wonder God made sure to put his likeness and sovereign design down on the page and why storytelling has been embedded in mankind’s very nature since Homer’s The Odyssey… and before.
In our English department at CCS, we understand the gift of a good book, and we are dedicated to equipping your child with the experiences they need to ignite a passion for reading. We cultivate a meaningful summer reading program that rivals other top schools, offer summer English bootcamps to refine skills, design relevant outside reading lists for the school year, and select timeless novels for class study.
But this endeavor to foster the love of reading is not ours alone; we invite you to come along beside us, no matter the age of your student. We want to create a reading revolution at CCS, and there are some practical ways you can go on this journey at home, too. Here are several:
- Stories Over Screens
Have a dedicated screen-free night once a week. Or a screen free hour if your schedule keeps you busy. Turn off the television, shut-down your phones, and unplug your devices. Instead of screens, everyone curls up with a good book. Talk together about what’s happening in your book and how you connect with the material. Share favorite quotes or lessons.
- Bring Books Back
Plan weekly or monthly visits to the library or bookstore. Help your child explore their literary interests and select a book or two they will read that month. Check out something for yourself while you’re at it.
- Read for Yourself
Let your child see you reading. There is suggestive power in the behavior you model. If your child sees you falling in love with a good book, research tells us your child is much more likely to do the same. The earlier you cultivate this love of reading the better, and it’s never too late to start.
- Read Together
Read together early and often. With your little ones, reading a book or two before bed is one of the best things you can do for your child’s developing brain and sense of security. The latest research proves that preschoolers who were exposed to more books as toddlers were more empathetic and intellectually developed than peers who were not. If your children are older, get a family book club going or start a friendly competition to see who can read the most books in a given period of time.
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