Humans were NOT born to read. Yet, each are taught to read at a young age – an age so young that many of us may not remember the process of actually learning how to do so. However, this need to read, this desire – especially literature – is born from the human need to tell stories. Along with this need to tell stories is the need to listen to stories which ultimately results in the learning and development of both students and adults.
As a child, literacy began by oral tradition. This, along with some teaching strategies, led to self-practiced reading of picture books, then chapter books, and later articles or scholarly texts. However, without that initial foundation of story time and picture book reading, life for certain individuals would be vastly different. Simply because of a book! Reading and the immersion of oneself into a story leads to deep thinking which creates deep thinkers and in turn creates experiences for the reader.
If you were to think back to childhood, and the time you spent reading a text, how much did you learn from it? What experiences did it provide you with? Did you even realize it had the power to do so? Let’s take a look…
The book “Brown Bear, Brown Bear What Do You See? is a beginners read with large simple pictures. It has basic elements such as a rhyme scheme and a rhythm which helps with child communication development. But when looking deeper, it provides children with an experience – one they may not have had themselves yet. This text provides young learners with the opportunity to see animals they may have never seen before. At the age of 3, many children may not have had the opportunity to go to the zoo – or even live in an environment where bears, ducks or similar animals are native. Therefore, these texts provide the children with the experience of seeing new creatures and the opportunity of identifying them quite possibly for the first time. However, children’s texts go even farther than merely allowing children to see things they have not in real life – something that TV and the internet can now also assist in.
Children’s books provide a maximum number of situations, ones in which they may not be in, or never experience hands-on. For instance, when looking at the tale of Hansel and Gretel, children take two very important lessons from the story, what to do when lost and alone, and why talking to strangers is dangerous. Both are important lessons for a child and their safety or survival. Hansel and Gretel are lost in the woods, most young children have not experienced the feeling of being completely lost, so they would not have a knowledge of how to handle the situation. This is where the power of literature comes in. Hansel and Gretel show the child –at least as an observer – what it is like to be lost. It explains the emotions and some of the thought processes that coincide with the experience. This in turn allows the child to develop a “working definition” of what it means to be lost and how they could avoid, solve, or cope with the situation if they ever find themselves in it. TV and movies, on the other hand, tend to limit a child’s development of this “working definition” and confine them to a particular image or scene. This inhibits them from thinking more deeply about the situation and how they would resolve their issue.
The ability to think! This is what truly sets apart literature from other means of entertainment. By learning to read at a young age and develop a sense of character awareness, children develop a sense of emotional intelligence and awareness. Reading, as a child, creates situations that help young learners develop a basis of experience, knowledge, and understanding for others. Reading teaches them how to cope as well as how to help others cope when they have not experienced the same situation. This is what creates deep thinkers in society. It has been proven that individuals who read texts, fictional works, creative stories, and writings and take the time to deeply analyze the work, tend to be more self-aware, empathetic, and knowledgeable. TV, movies, and media have their limitations on perspectives and capabilities of allowing the audience to truly feel for a character. However, deep reading, beginning at a young age and developing into adult years, allows people to gain experiences which leads to a more developed and understanding human being.
So, READ! Read fiction, read books, read poems, be creative! It is time to get off your phones and the internet, engage in a text, and take time to escape from the real world. It is time to develop deep thinkers... and it all can start with something as simply as 1 children's book. :)