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Geoff Ashton

Blogs by Geoff Ashton
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5 minutes reading time (1025 words)

Make Your Child Happy With Reading & Writing!

Mental Health Issues have only recently received the attention they deserve

New research from the NTL (National Literacy Trust) has established a link between literacy activity and good mental health.

New research on children's mental health... 

Yes, that's right, you read correctly! Reading and writing can actually make your child happy and improve their mental wellbeing. I know, it often feels like a chore encouraging your little one to read, and it only becomes even more challenging when they become teenagers and the worlds of technology and social media seemingly take over. But, new research has shown that it's actually worth persevering with that all important reading book as it may make your child feel positive – and we all like our children to be chipper, don't we?!

The research by the charity organisation NLT (National Literacy Trust) has made a strong argument for an encouraging and positive link between literacy activity and mental health. The report stakes solid claims in the findings that school pupils who enjoy reading, and who also engage in writing for pleasure, are a whopping three times as likely to have higher levels of mental well-being than their peers who find these activities more of a chore. 

So there's something to be said for turning the TV off a little earlier on an evening and dedicating some time to encouraging your child to read for pleasure – it may even be fun to read out loud together on occasion too! 

Facts and figures in the report by the NLT reveal that: 

- almost 40% of the pupils who enjoyed reading and writing had high levels of mental health and wellbeing...

- compared to just 11% of whom stated they did not enjoy these activities.

source: (National Literacy Trust)
Which 'egg' is fully engaged in learning?

The document goes on to make quite an 'out there' claim that those children who are less engaged in reading and writing will be more likely to struggle with mental health and well-being, both now and in the future. 

Reading has unexpected mental health benefits... 

NLT polled more than 50,000 children in the survey, with results stating that over 40% of those children with higher than expected reading skills had above-average levels of mental well-being. On the other hand, just 13% of those children with lower than expected reading skills had comparable levels of well-being. 

As a teacher, I often stress to my students how important reading is for academic success, but we also should remind ourselves how important it is for mental well-being too. Reading for pleasure can transport us to many wonderful worlds, and for children especially, using their imagination can make them feel happy and calm.

Many members of the NLT, upon the recent release of the report, were also very fast to emphasise the vital importance of reading and writing in our children's lives, stating, 

   - "Children and young people today face a multitude of pressures at school, at home and in their social lives. Teachers and parents must do all they can to encourage children to develop good literacy skills."

We certainly all know that this is the case! Our younger generation are facing more challenges than ever before, particularly when it comes to pressure at school, home and socially, so what better way to help them to cope with these pressures than to allow them some escapism with a good book?! 

Or encouraging them to write a story with themselves as the main character in their own make-believe fantasy world?

Jonathan Douglas, the director of the NLT discussed the link between developing children's resilience and their literacy skills, 

  - "It is imperative that we do everything we can to enable our children to develop the resilience they need to cope with life's challenges and our latest research shows that the joys of reading and writing can be hugely beneficial." 

Sounds great, doesn't it? Our children will become more resilient if they're reading and writing for pleasure! 

1/4 of our 'more able' children feel stress 

It can be hard to spot depression in young children

Some interesting, as well as somewhat alarming information, was also included in the report, about how those children who are 'most able' (a broad educational term for what some of us may nickname academically 'bright' or 'gifted' children) were coping with dealing with stress and anxiety in their lives. 

Worryingly, the study found that more than a quarter of these children felt they didn't know how to adequately deal with stress and that more than one in five children were unhappy with their life. 

Of course, reading and writing for pleasure won't completely combat this, but encouraging these activities as hobbies rather than a chore to pass an exam at school will arguably help our youngsters in the ever-growing pressure cooker of our modern world!

Postcode lottery to mental health... 

Finally, the report revealed that pupils in London, the North East and the West Midlands have the highest levels of mental well-being, in comparison to children in the South West and Yorkshire who have the lowest. 

This could be put down to access to quality reading material in these areas – and it is important for us to remember we have such a wonderful wealth of resource in libraries still to this day. We definitely need to make sure we make full use of libraries before they die out altogether! Remember, a trip to the library is a free, fun and educational visit for you and your family and, according to this report, will definitely help your children's mental wellbeing.

Healthy minds love to read & write 

Reading and mental health go hand in hand

For decades the importance of reading in a child's development has been understood. Stories clearly help to enrich and develop a child's imagination and give them opportunities to be transported to many different worlds and scenarios, testing and expanding their moral compass and allowing them to empathise with the different characters in their books. 

Plus, as we all know, some of the most famous writers are well known for being interesting characters themselves! So who knows, maybe, just maybe, one of our children could be the next JK Rowling or Roald Dahl?

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