Should books entertain or educate?

Updated: Feb 8

I recently saw someone ask a question about whether books should be primarily for entertainment or to educate.

My initial response is that books should always be entertaining. If a book is interesting, enjoyable and funny then children will be motivated to read it and learn all it has to offer.

If we dig a little deeper it isn’t hard to find the vast swathes of benefits for children who read for pleasure. Reading for pleasure has more impact on a child’s life chances than their parents’ level of education. It boosts reading confidence and helps children in vocabulary and spelling tests, which isn’t surprising but it also improves maths scores and general knowledge. It also helps build imagination, empathy and resilience.

Sadly, 1 in 10 children aged 5-16 in the UK have a diagnosable mental health disorder. A report from Childwise in 2018 found that 75% of 9-10 year olds sometimes feel worried or anxious and 65% report feeling lonely (both big increases on 2017 and I suspect this year they would jump again) but reading can help. Reading can reduce the feeling of loneliness, help children relax and if read to the benefits are even greater. A child that is read to feels worthy of their parents’ time, secure and loved. This in turn boosts feelings towards reading.

Research shows that a worryingly low percentage of children in the UK are being read to or independently read daily. Research from Egmont over several years points to three key reasons why so many children aren’t reading for pleasure:

1. The current school curriculum focusses too much on literacy – the mechanics of reading rather than the joy.

2. Screen time is eating into children’s free time

3. Parents not realising the benefits of reading to a child even after they can read independently

There are so many burdens on parents today, and I think this is a weight we can get rid of. Don’t worry if your child chooses a silly book over one that looks more educational: a magazine, comic or book of jokes are all equally valid in your child’s journey to becoming a proficient reader who will receive all the benefits listed above. All we have to do is give them the time and space to see reading as a form of entertainment!

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