Sunday, 14 February 2016

The Benefits of Recreational Reading

I've recently rediscovered the pleasure of recreational reading. At Christmas, knowing that I was headed out on a long air journey with limited luggage space, my wife gave me an e-reader. It proved to be invaluable, helping to pass long hours in the sky and at airports. I'd always enjoyed reading as a recreational past time. Finding the time and packing the books has become a challenge in recent years. I've taken to carrying my e-book, with its small light profile and easy access to online libraries with me, and I am really enjoying the benefits of a recharging recreational read in those moments where previously I was just hurrying up to wait.

The National Library of New Zealand in an online post Reading For Pleasure - A Door to Success clearly identifies recreational reading as a valuable 21st Century Skill. It points out that "Adolescents entering the adult world in the 21st C will need to read and write more than at any other time in human history. They will need advanced levels of literacy to perform their jobs, run their households, act as citizens, and conduct their personal lives. They will need literacy to cope with the flood of information they will find everywhere they turn. They will need literacy to feed their imaginations, so they can create the world of the future. In a complex, and sometimes dangerous world, the ability to read can be crucial."International Reading Association, ( Moore et al, 1999, p3 as cited by Clark & Rumbold, 2006).  Other benefits of reading for fun include stimulated creativity and imagination, improved physical and mental health and increased empathy and social skills. Ironically, taking time for oneself better equips us to deal with others.

Recreational reading is also valuable for families. The website Early Moments provides an excellent list of ten reasons identifying benefits for families that read with, and to, one another. Key amongst these are strengthened bonds between parent and children, improved concentration and communication skills and an improved ability to self regulate and acclimate to new or different circumstances and environments. Starting early is key. Reading to toddlers and preschoolers makes reading a positive experience, one children are more likely to view as a fun indulgence rather than a painful chore later in life. Reading together is good for everyone. It provides parents a pleasant and calming timeout, and an opportunity to model life long learning to children who come to associate reading with positive feelings and outcomes.

Sadly , with so many distractions and other sources of mental stimulation present in our lives, recreational reading has been on the decline.  A 2012 OECD survey indicated that the rate of recreational reading was decreasing by as much as 5% per year in many western countries and that the rate of decline increases with age and is higher in males than females. I'll be doing my part to reverse the trend by keeping my e-reader charged, loaded and available. Whether on line or in print, getting in a good read can assist us all in ensuring education matters are both fun and informative.

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