If You Want to Succeed, Read!
By Martin Kerin
With Thursday 1st March, World Book Day 2018, fast approaching, I’m minded to think about and promote the immeasurable power of books.
It is my belief that every day should be World Book Day. From the very young to the very old, reading is, without a doubt, good for your health.
For babies and toddlers, reading and sharing stories is the way to gain a head start in life. Pre-schoolers who are read to daily develop their vocabulary quicker, can communicate more effectively, can play imaginatively and engage with the world with greater confidence. For any parent or carer, the joy of sharing The Hungry Caterpillar, Elmer, Charlie Cook’s Favourite Book, We’re Going On A Bear Hunt, and The Gruffalo can produce memories that will stay for a lifetime. Sharing this time makes children feel more secure and at ease with the world around them.
When children move on to school, the importance of reading grows and becomes absolutely crucial to their well-being and development. Throughout my years working in education, I have come to this simple conclusion: children who read regularly for pleasure do better at school. The sheer exercise your brain gets should be enough justification for reading regularly, but that is just one of the benefits. Children who read continue gaining a better vocabulary, empathy with the world, a powerful imagination and superior reasoning skills.
For young people, there is nothing greater than getting to know the great characters and plots that have graced the great stories available in every classroom. We smile at the relationship between Charlie Bucket and his amazing Grandpa Joe, and debate who is the most odious child between Violet Beauregard and Veruca Salt; we cheer that Tiny Tim did survive, and our faith in mankind is restored by the festive change within Ebenezer Scrooge; we wonder what would have happened if Juliet that woken up sooner – could she and Romeo ever really have lived happily ever after?
The joy of reading that begins in childhood carries into our adult lives. Adults who read have better memories, reduced stress levels and sharper analytical skills. In later life, continuing the good reading habits of childhood and adulthood can help to keep the brain in great shape.
My own personal story with reading began with the trips my late mother would take my brother and I on to Tilbury Library from a very young age. These visits were magical. I could have any book I wanted, as long as I brought it back in time. Walking in and knowing that everything was up for grabs was an empowering experience. Anne, the librarian, would order books in centrally for me that were not on the shelves at that moment. My mother, brother and I would walk back home, down Calcutta Road, laden with books – various types for me, but nothing but Catherine Cookson for her. Dad would come home from work and find our flat littered with literature. I was lucky to have parents who actively encouraged this.
I was blessed to attend a school with a well-stocked and well-run library of its own. There was a special atmosphere to the St. Chad’s School Library. As well as having interesting staff that genuinely enjoyed and encouraging reading, it held subscriptions to a wide array of magazines and periodicals. From Four Four Two to National Geographic, there was always a great selection to sift through. As with the books available, these magazines were free to enjoy – family income was no barrier. This is where my life-long love of reading magazines and periodicals started.
These experiences of the library, that my parents and school gave to me, is something my wife and I are now giving to our own children. We take them on frequent trips to Grays Library. The experience of visiting a library is one that still excites me as an adult. I become a boy again, marvelling at the worlds that are opened for you on the shelves. Even better than this, is seeing my own children marvel at the worlds opening up for them on the shelves. Just like in my childhood, we leave laden with books and our house becomes littered with literature.
So, this 1st March 2018 is one day that should be tattooed into your diary. Enjoy World Book Day, and remember this: if you want to succeed, read!