Why Books Are The Gifts That Keep Giving by Kate O’Brien

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Kate O'Brien

By Kate O’Brien

I believe there are three main gifts that books keep on giving as we grow up.

The Lifelong Benefits of Being a Reader

It is that time of year where everyone is getting ready for Christmas.

Books are always popular and you will see gift guides galore. I’ve been thinking about why reading guides are so popular.

Why is it so important to encourage reading? As a literary reviewer, I know why I want to encourage children to pick up a book. When I encourage reading, I am thinking beyond just the physical book. I am thinking of all the things that book can do.

It can be easy to underestimate how wonderful being a reader can be. Being a reader benefits us greatly. To keep things simple, I am going to explain what I believe are the three main gifts that books keep on giving as we grow up.

Books Give Us The Gift of Empathy

Often, but especially when we are young, it becomes easy to live in our own bubbles. When we think of young readers, particularly kids who have just started school, it is important to remember that they live in their own bubble. At home, with friends, and in school, a routine becomes established and things become very familiar, especially if the children they associate with live lives similar to their own. How do children start to learn about different places? Different experiences? Different people? How can they understand looking at things from someone else’s perspective if all they have to go by is their own? Books. Books are one of the first windows we are given into different experiences. We read from the perspective of someone else. When young readers become invested in a protagonist, they begin to relate to them. They worry if a character is facing hardships, they root for them when they are facing challenges, and they protest injustice if the protagonist is being unfairly treated. As we’re getting ready for Christmas, think about pantomimes, think how young audiences eagerly boo when a character like Cinderella is mistreated. They boo because they are upset that she is facing unfairness. They are empathising with her, as they do with the protagonists in their books. Having empathy for other people is crucial as we become adults. From a very young age, starting in the most straightforward of stories, books help young readers develop and foster a sense of empathy and understanding for others, and that is a gift that will keep giving as children become adults.

Books Give Us The Gift of Creativity

Children’s books are unique in the way they retain a sense of wonder. Children’s books take readers to faraway places where wonderous things happen. Magic exists. Witches run amok. Animals talk. Things happen in children’s books that don’t in real life. Young readers are asked to suspend their disbelief. When we read something that challenges us to accept the impossible, we are given the opportunity to use our imaginations and be creative. When readers become more advanced and books become more descriptive, they are asked to imagine for themselves what characters look like, what places look like. For some readers, this is the best part because they get to create something of their own within a book. Being creative and using our imagination has many positive impacts. It expands our minds, it allows us to figure things out in our own way, it is relaxing and good for our mental health. Being creative when we are young allows for positive outlets for expression as we grow. Becoming a creative adult can lead to incredible things such as great jobs, great hobbies, and having a lovely way to connect with others. Books help young readers develop a sense of creativity and that is a gift that will continue to give.

Books Give Us The Gift of Understanding

The world is hard navigate, especially when we are young. Sometimes we don’t have the words for what we are experiencing. Reading helps us understand. On a literal level, the more information we take in, the more we know. When young readers start to read more books, their vocabulary naturally expands. They are reading more words so they know more words. When we feel confident about what we know, it is easier to keep learning and improving because we are able to ask more questions. On a figurative level, books help us find a sense of belonging and understanding. When a character experiences something that readers relate to, it helps us understand the situation in a new way. There is a reason why fairy tales have traditionally been associated with teaching lessons. When situations occur in books they allow us to talk to children about real life. The more we know, the safer we can be. For example, a book about stranger danger allows us to teach children about being careful in a safe way. The idea is to teach about danger without them having to actually be in any real danger. Every book we read expands our minds a bit more. That is how being a reader can open many doors. It does not matter what you go on to study as an adult, the first books that we encountered, that had us questioning and curious, were children’s books. The more we understand, the wider the world becomes. Books give young readers their first sense of understanding, and understanding is a gift that will give, and give for as long as we keep wanting to know more.

Books are fantastic because not only are they entertaining, but they help us develop on an intellectual, personal, and social level. Being a reader is a great habit to encourage and I think it is great to know that if you put a book in someone’s stocking this year, you are giving a gift that will give in so many ways that maybe you hadn’t considered before.

(c) Kate O’Brien

To read more children’s book discussions, reviews, and recommendations, you can visit Katelovesliterature.com

About the author

My name is Kate O’Brien. I have a MA in Children’s and Young Adult Literature from DCU.
I’m an editorial assistant and a literary reviewer. I worked my first Children’s Books Ireland book clinic as a book doctor at the Dublin Book Festival.
I share literary reviews, discussions, and recommendations on my website https://katelovesliterature.com/ and on Instagram @katelovesliterature
I am particularly passionate about children’s literature because I believe that being a reader when we are young can benefit us greatly as we grow up.
I want to encourage wonder and curiosity.

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