The Power of Reading – Setting the Stage
“All you need is a little time and a good book.”
Each year our faculty and staff engage in reading recommendations over the summer months. This past summer one of our go-to titles was called The Enchanted Hour: The Miraculous Power of Reading Aloud in the Age of Distraction, by Meghan Cox Gurdon. I highly recommend this book. As an educator and parent, I have always understood the importance and benefits of reading to children. My own life-long passion for reading is steadfast and although I have a Nook and listen to audio books in the car, I continue to prefer the physical book in my hand and the pleasure that comes with turning the page to read on. I believe that one of the greatest gifts we can give to children is the gift of the love of reading. Reading this book reminded me that in today’s digitally infused world it is more important than ever that we read to children whenever possible.
I have observed the screen world creeping into childhood at an earlier and earlier age. I watched in awe as my own children learned to use technology faster than I could comprehend. I too succumbed to the unavoidable connection to my computer and cell phone. It is a known fact that technology is here to stay and unavoidable. Yet, more and more, I am convinced that childhood needs to be protected from the “too early” and “too oft” exposure to screen time and the digital distraction of games and gadgets. Brain and behavioral research are telling us that too much screen time can result in poor concentration and short attention spans. I have had many conversations with parents on the impact of screens on children. It is important to keep in mind that the years from birth to six are vital for brain development. During this time children are in a sensitive period for learning that is primarily dependent on human interaction.
Reading, The Enchanted Hour reminds us how we can conserve that human relationship in the age of screens by reading to children on a consistent basis. Doing so is powerful and nourishing. Not only does it provide the soothing sound of language necessary for literacy development, but both reader and listener are in the present with each other and gain from the shared experience of building bonds and imagination. When very young children are read to and can look at visuals at the same time, their cognitive development is optimized, critical thinking skills are sparked, and emotions nurtured.
The book provides wonderful anecdotal stories and will most definitely create a desire in all readers to pick up a book and read to someone. It may bring a smile to your face as you recall some fond memories of reading to a loved one, or perhaps like me discovering the joy of books through years of nightly readings by my father. It will also give pause for thoughts about unplugging in an effort to support emotional connections.
All it takes is time and a good book!
Gurdon, Meghan Cox (2019) The Enchanted Hour: The Miraculous Power of Reading Aloud in the Age of Distraction Harper Collins Publishers