I remember asking my mom what "t-h-e" spells. I was sitting on one of those plastic toy chest benches that every '90s kid had and I screamed her name with such power and urgency that I can only now, as an adult, imagine sounded as though I were having a true emergency. That's how anything that has to do with reading has always been for me — urgent.
From wedging myself in-between adult conversations to get someone to read to me to carrying a book under my arm everywhere I went — literally everywhere; my poor parents had to entertain each other for most of my childhood because I was always lost in a book — I have grown up with a love of books and stories. But one thing I've learned throughout the years is that you can get so much more out of a book than just stories.
Being an avid reader and constantly feeling the need to bury my head in a new book has given me a surplus of skills and benefits that have affected every part of my life, and I'm a true believer that if our kids' idea of reading is through Facebook statuses, Instagram captions, and tweets, they're going to be in a bit of trouble.
Read through for eight ways growing up a bookworm affected my life for the better, which are benefits your kids can also get in on if they're encouraged to be readers early on.
- I learned new words constantly as a kid (and still do), and developed language at an advanced rate. Because I read so often, I was constantly looking up words or asking my parents what new words meant. It then became like a game to use my new words as a party trick of sorts both in school and around friends. When my friends were forming three-word sentences, I was speaking in paragraphs (and still do).
- I have the memory of an elephant. Reading books with a lot of characters and storylines puts pressure on the reader to recall events and names, something that for me, as a reader, definitely carried over into everyday life. I'm amazing at remembering birthdays, middle names, and tons of other useless — and not useless — pieces of information.
- I can tune out pretty much any type of noise or distraction. If you aren't completely focused on the story you're reading, you'll miss details that could be important, which makes comprehension and recall more difficult. When you read a lot, you have no choice but to adapt to your surroundings and focus on the story alone, even if that means blocking out noises from kid toys or loud TV shows. Plus, being able to concentrate on a book translates to being tuned-in to real-life moments with loved ones, in the classroom, at work, and more when you don't have a book in your hands.
- I still have an active imagination as an adult. Most adults begin to lose the ability to creatively use their imagination in the same way kids are able to, but reading helps to keep things vivid. When you're faced with hundreds of white pages with black text and no photos to be found, it's up to you as the reader to connect the words on the page to a world in your head based on the descriptions given to you. This skill allowed me to be creative throughout school and to think out of the box now as a working adult.
- No matter how stressed I get, I know that reading can help to calm me down and refocus my attention. In the same way that I can tune out noise easily, I can avoid dwelling on stress and frustration by putting my mind elsewhere — into a story. Even if I can't sit down to read a book at the height of my stress, I do my best to think about other things and push my worries aside when I need to keep myself focused on something else. Being able to call upon a sense of calm and tranquility even in the most demanding of times is a quality in myself that I truly value and am grateful for.
- I have always loved — and been good at — writing. Reading is basically a way a writer can "practice" writing without actually writing a word. When you read stories constantly, you begin to pick up on the elements of different authors' writing styles that you like or which resonate with you for one reason or another. The more reading you do, the easier it becomes to jot down well-written sentences that provide information and tell a story. And going back to having a wide vocabulary, being a human thesaurus makes writing a hell of a lot less boring.
- I learn something new on every page of every book. OK, maybe not every single page, but I definitely gain a lot of knowledge with every book I read. Sometimes I learn little things, like the state fish of Hawaii (humuhumunukunukuapua'a), but sometimes I gain knowledge about something on a larger scale, like life during World War II, or about something that directly affects my life, like my career. In order to keep growing, you can't ever stop learning, so even when your school years are far behind you, you can ensure that you learn something new every day through reading.
- I have a hobby I can turn to literally anywhere I go. Whether I have a physical book in my hand, or am reading an e-book or article online, I have reading material no matter where I go — on an airplane, in a car, waiting in a doctor's office, or when the power is out during a storm and everyone else in the modern world freaks out because their television is unusable. Words are everywhere and reading is a hobby that is possible 24/7 (also, if you utilize your local library, it's free!).
No matter how old your child is, it's never too late to encourage them to be a bookworm — and I promise, they will thank you for it later.