One day in 1988 when I was eight, my dad gave me a book with this inscription. It helped to kick start a lifelong love of reading and completely changed my life. And although all my childhood books were later donated to my younger cousins once I outgrew them, this special Enid Blyton Famous Five book has always remained with me.
Needless to say, this love of reading is something I hope to pass on to my sons as well.
Let’s start with why.
A few benefits of cultivating a reading habit.
- Increases curiosity and desire to self-learn any subject of interest. The ability to read and understand any book in a library also provides confidence in acquiring new skills.
- Improves analytical thinking skills since reading requires mental focus and imagination. Unlike watching a video where the entire experience is spoonfed, when reading, the brain must create its own imagery.
- Able to go deep into any subject matter in order to gain a deeper understanding, without actually having to take a course or degree.
- Life and career changes can be confidently navigated by simply self-learning whatever skills are needed along the way.
- More independent and able to cope better in modern situations like quarantine, self-isolation and reduced social interactions.
How to start.
- Start by reading whatever is fun. In the beginning it doesn’t matter if it is purely just for entertainment value. My generation grew up on stuff like Enid Blyton, Tintin, The Hardy Boys and Nancy Drew.
- Start with physical books only. Digital devices come with too many distractions built-in. If you prefer not to purchase them just get them from a library. I still have fond memories of my dad taking me to a small book rental place called Heng Trading. I discovered the Lone Wolf and Choose Your Own Adventure! series there.
- As your kids progress, try to let them read something that is challenging enough but not too difficult. If it is to easy, they will get bored. Too hard, they will give up. If unsure, stick to something more entertaining than educational.
- Eventually they will come round to more education content in whichever subject interests them.
- Fiction and non-fiction are equally important, try to make sure that your kids don’t focus exclusively on one category. There is amazing fiction out there that helps us make sense of the real world, and also non-fiction so magical that it seems like fantasy and sci-fi.
- Kids will pick up the reading habit easier if the parents are also avid readers. I don’t think anyone is born with this innate desire, but I think it probably comes more naturally to introverts.
- No matter your ethnicity or which part of the world you’re from, English and Chinese are the two most spoken languages in the world (also US & China have the two largest economies). And for Science and Technology, almost all the literature is English based. So reading in both these languages will be an advantage in life. I don’t have anything to say on reading Chinese literature because regrettably, I can’t read Chinese.
- There are far too many books out there, and too many are mediocre. So eventually choosing what to read will become a skill in itself. Pick the best. Pick classic publications that have stood the test of time before moving on to newer stuff. This will help build a more solid foundation, especially for non-fiction. Research the best books before starting any book. Commit to quality over quantity.
- Naval Ravikant has a great five minute blog post that goes over many similar points from a tech perspective.
And finally, you could give your kids a book with a special message in it, like what my dad gifted me: enough adventure to last a lifetime.
And for that, I’ll forever be grateful.