When To Introduce Books To Young Children
When the first verse of the Qur’an revealed with the word “IQRA” (Read), then as Muslims we should know that that means something. Islam give a lot of importance to learning and seeking knowledge.
Anas ibn Malik reported that the Messenger of Allah (pbuh) said,
“Seeking knowledge is an obligation upon every Muslim,”
[Sunan Ibn Majah 224, Grade: Sahih]
And it is a universally acknowledged fact that reading is crucial to learning – it is the first thing taught at schools, and we start singing the ABC song to children while they are infants. Even to memorize the Qur’an, we have to first learn how to read it.
Studies have shown time and time again just how valuable reading is and specially for growing children. Here are some of the benefits:
Research has shown that children who are exposed to books or are read to, have increased white matter in the brain. The white matter is responsible for connections between teh various parts of the brain. Research has also shown increased cognition and highter IQs in these kids.
Widened vocabulary and language development
The more words they hear, the more their vocabulary expands. Books expose children to words they would not hear in everyday language. Books also have more descriptive and comparative words which are so important for children who are learning to talk to be able to express themselves.
Improved attention span and listening skills
We all want our children to “listen!” Well, experts say that read alouds help children develop this important life skill because listening to a story requires them to develop some level of comprehension and the more they are exposed to read-alouds, the more they develop this skill. Over time, they will also develop an increased attention span as they have to concentrate on the story.
Any quality time spent with your child is invaluable. But when reading is added to it, it not only slows both you and your child down in this fast-paced world, but it also gives you an opportunity to connect over a story.
Empathy and life lessons
Reading has been shown to develop empathy. When children read about other characters going through different or difficult times, they have been “in their shoes” and they learn about those situations without experiencing them themselves. Books are also a great way to learn about real life problems in an age appropriate way or as conversation starters for difficult conversations.
Children are naturally curious and ask a lot of questions! By helping them build a strong foundation of a reading habit, they will always know where to look for answers. We as parents don’t know everything about everything. So when we teach them to look for information in books, encyclopedias, dictionaries, atlases, etc. instead of turning to google, we will be setting them up for success in the long run.
When to introduce books to children?
According to Dr. Klein from the Cleveland Clinic, it is never too early and never too late. I personally began reading to myt children within the first weeks of their lives! If you are expecting a baby right now, prepare to make reading part of your routine from birth. If you have a toddler or even a grade-schooler, now is better than any time. Children benefit from being read to at any age.
What kind of books should I get?
Reading is one thing that is so beneficial and yet it will not break the bank. Infants and toddlers do well with board books because they like to throw them around and even chew on them. You can get just a few best sellers and they should suffice because children love repeating the same books. To add more variety, borrow books from the library or from friends.
With newborns, it’s more aboutthe time spent with you, the sound of your voice and a routine, so feel free to read anything, even the newspaper! As their sight develops, the board books with colorful illustrations will come into play. For school-age children, take them to the library weekly and let them pick books that they like and some books that you have researched ahead of time. Use books lists provided by libraries, schools, American Library Association, etc. for your research.
One thing I would encourage is to get books of as wide a variety as possible. Introducing children to diverse topics not only increases their knowledge but also stimulates further learning and interest. Stories from the Qur’an and books that inculcate a love of Islam can be introduced to toddlers thanks to numerous high quality and engaging board books that are easily available. Make use of them to not only establish a love for reading and learning but also to inculcate a habit of learning more about Islam. Those who love reading stories from the Qur’an today, will not stop at that. They will start reading the Seerah and Tafsir tomorrow Insh’Allah to quence their never-ending thirst of seeking new knowledge.
Ray Bradbury, author of Farenheit 451, said: “You don’t have to burn books to destroy a culture. Just get people to stop reading them.” I think this is incredibly powerful because where would we be without books? How would history be preserved? How would those who cannot travel learn about other cultures and societies? How would we learn?