Benefits of Being a Bookworm

Benefits of Being a Bookworm

Apart from the fact that books keep them entertained for long stretches of time, kids are exercising while they read.

My grandkids often stay overnight, but it is still not quite like home, so I always tell them, “When you wake up, no matter how early, you can come and wake us”. Then we go to bed, prepared to be woken at dawn. That’s the way it has been since they were toddlers.

This particular night, Dan and I stayed up late watching a movie, so I wasn’t expecting much sleep. But I wasn’t woken at dawn. I didn’t open my eyes until eight.

The house was silent. “My God!” I thought.

“What’s happened to the kids?” I threw on my dressing gown and went to look.

Susie was in bed, engrossed in a book. Nell was on the couch in the lounge, under a blanket, engrossed in a book. Everyone was happy. I breathed a sigh of relief and went to put the kettle on.

When I was a working parent, mornings were always a trial. On school days the kids never wanted to get up and get ready. As a teacher, I know that lots of parents have this problem. One day a child arrived at my class in pyjamas and her mother said, “I told her! I said, ‘If you don’t get up and dressed right now, I’ll take you to school in your PJs!’”

Weekends and holidays are different. When there’s no school, kids like to get up early. They like to wake their parents, too. The tired parents groan in agony, but when kids are small there’s no help for it. I often see a young dad go past my house at 6am with a child in a stroller, and I wonder, ‘Is that really what you want to be doing at this hour?’

Once the children reach an age when they can be trusted not to hurt themselves or burn the house down, parents train them to get up and amuse themselves quietly, and that’s what Matt and Claudia have done with Susie and Nell.

No TV, no arguing, no running around. Just quiet toys and books.

Dan and I have done our best to get our grandchildren addicted to books, because they’re good for kids. Apart from the fact that books keep them entertained for long stretches of time, kids are exercising while they read. They’re stretching their brains, just as people stretch their bodies at the gym.

It’s easy to hook young children on their families’ passions – cars, music, sports and so on. People remember with great pleasure the fun they had playing cricket in the backyard as children, and so they’re happy and confident playing cricket with their own children.

The same isn’t always true with reading. Some kids get plenty of physical exercise but miss out on the brain exercise of reading and listening to stories, and so all that world knowledge stored in the form of written text is accessible to them only with a great deal of exhausting effort.

These days the reading isn’t all done in books, but information that is delivered electronically is still delivered in the form of writing. When children are researching for a school project, many look at a block of text with dislike and despair, and end up doing a cut-and-paste of words they haven’t really read. That will teach them nothing and will very likely get them into trouble at school.

Einstein said that imagination is more important than knowledge, meaning that it is through imagination that we arrive at the solutions for problems. I think knowledge is important, too, as a foundation and stimulus for imagination. Facts about fascinating things – dinosaurs or motorbikes, animals or the solar system – give kids the foundations to imagine and find out more.

And the easiest way to collect a wide range of knowledge and facts is through reading.

So I’m delighted that Susie and Nell can wake up in the morning and lose themselves in books – and not only because it allows me to sleep in.

Words by Rose O’Reilly / Photography by Annie Spratt

Guest Contributor