Comfort Reading - is it good for you?
Do you ever have times when it’s all too much - a transition period, a loss or an ongoing stress? Instead of a packet of chocolate biscuits, you might reach for a comfort book.
It’s that familiar book you return to, to make yourself feel better. For escapism, fun, nostalgia and the feeling of friendship, connection and security much loved characters and their situations bring. They’re usually easier to read than your normal ability and are often novels built around complicated worlds that are full of details waiting to be rediscovered.
They’re the reading equivalent of snuggling with a hot water bottle on a cold day. Books from a happier time cherished because they genuinely give you warmth and pleasure. Whether you know these stories off by heart or they’re treasures from your distant past, you read them because you know you’ll enjoy reading them again.
So when you see your kids reading the same books over and over again – or, yegads, comic books – they might be comfort reading too.
Is it a bad thing?
As parents we want our kids to read, but not the same way-too-easy book for the twentieth time. To help them learn we expect them to be reading a variety of progressively more difficult books that develop their knowledge, vocabulary, comprehension and writing styles.
Hang on a second – that sounds awfully like school work?
Let me spell out the obvious: when kids are home, they don’t want to do school. They might have had a tough day, and need a little solace. Nothing necessarily heartbreaking, maybe just part of that regular stream of transitions called growing up – a new grade, a new school, a new house, new family circumstances. So they want something to pep them up a bit, something they can rely to be reassuring and fun. Something that they can explore more deeply without too much effort.
In our house my children's comfort books are The Guinness Book of Records (my sons collect these - they love examining the minute differences between records in each book), the Harry Potter series (a beloved universe for both my sons and daughter), and an old nursery rhyme book from my childhood (my daughter loves the melodies and illustrations, reminiscent of her toddler-hood and her connection with me).
Familiar books are a gentle comfort. And that’s okay.
But if you’re on edge with the endless circle of comfort books, maybe give your child a literacy nudge. Remember that they’re reading for pleasure so to wean them off the old book, find them a new book or series based around a subject that interests them (yes, pick that obsessive interest – the more interested they are in the topic, the easier the switch will be). Let them take risks with new books – and tell them that if they don't like the book, they don't have to finish it (remove the obligation and there's less fear to try). Listen to more difficult books on audio, where the voice-acted narration helps to explain the story and build anticipation.
Also nudge them to do some exercise, preferably in the fresh air and with someone they love. You might take them for a walk, and chat about the book they're reading and why they love it so much. Or just get them sporting with their friends. There’s a time and place for everything, and sometimes we also need to put the books down and connect back joyfully with the real world.
My School Adventure customises The Art Show That Came To Life At [Your School Name Here] for schools and will be releasing a second novel The Science Fair That Went Berserk At [Your School Name Here]. For more information on how we can assist your school please visit www.myschooladventure.com.
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