Should old people read books

Reading: good for empathy and brain development : "Parents shouldn't stop reading aloud"

Mr. Biemann, your book “The Magic of Letters - How to Inspire Your Child to Read” is based on the knowledge that many children and young people would not like to read. Why is that?

I don't write in it that children generally don't like to read, and that's not the case either. Children actually really like books. Picture books in particular sell particularly well. This year is even better than last year. But there are many parents who complain that their children lose interest in reading at some point, especially when they are young, between the ages of twelve and 14. This is a phenomenon that I have observed very often and that has been confirmed to me from many quarters.

What is the cause of this?

This is because other things, the smartphone or friends are becoming more important. But some also say that they find the books they have boring. The years before growing up are a very difficult age group for publishers and authors. Children's stories no longer pull. There is a lack of material that is easily accessible but still written so excitingly that it also appeals to young people. There’s Harry Potter, but what if it’s finished? You have to take a really good look around. Especially since interests diverge at that age. Some are interested in horses, some in excavators, others in music. It takes a lot of effort to find something that fits.

So is it not so much the children as the lack of supply?
Absolutely. And what is also very important is the parents as role models. When mom or dad sit lolling on the sofa with their smartphone, they can't wait for the child to pick up a book. But if the child sees that their parents also like to read, they are more likely to imitate it. If that only happens when the children are already in bed, they will unfortunately never notice.

Now you are actually a television person yourself. Why do you of all people want to convince children to read books?
I know from our viewers that these children are often only allowed to watch “Die Sendung mit der Maus” and nothing else. However, it has been scientifically proven that reading is important for many areas of brain development. Reading promotes a better understanding of relationships. What's the story What's the conflict of interest behind it? And how does the dramaturgy work? Reading also promotes empathy. You learn to put yourself in other people's shoes. Anyone who reads a novel is excited about the protagonist, regardless of whether he likes him or rejects him as an antihero. If this connection doesn't exist, you don't understand the whole story and then it's not fun either.

How does that help you in real life?
Being able to empathize with other people is something you can always use in life. For example, I can understand what drives my classmate. What is his motivation when he wants to be my friend or bullies me? Anyone who reads a lot of books also learns to better understand political contexts. This is also a very important thing for democracy. Only when people understand social interrelationships are they responsible citizens. Otherwise you just choose any party because your parents have always voted for it. Private reading at home is also helpful in school. Anyone who consumes a long book is not reading it in one piece. So you have to pick up on it every time and learn to get back into the subject within a few lines.

Young people already read a lot. They chat, text their friends, and through the Internet they can access a lot more texts than previous generations. Isn't that enough? Why does it have to be the long novel of all things?
Of course you should also read other books and texts. But novels are important because they're fun, because they're entertaining. If you don't enjoy something, then you don't. And when it comes to interpersonal stories, fiction is often much better than a non-fiction book. You can read a book about psychology, but sometimes you understand things better when it comes to people you can empathize with. It is true that a lot is read on the smartphone. But in chat or on Twitter, the messages are very short, so you have to follow a longer arc of thought there less often.

How can parents motivate a child who does not enjoy reading?
It is best to maintain continuity. Many parents stop reading as soon as the child can read for themselves. This is a mistake, because reading aloud is a very fundamental thing. You should also read to older children. You can also read out to each other in sections.

Around 70,000 books appear in Germany every year. How do I find the right book for my child?
I suggest just going to a bookstore or library and see what the kids are jumping on. Some like fantasy stories, some historical novels, others prefer to read books that deal with the present and address current issues. Still others don't like problems at all, preferring to read ideal world stories. You shouldn't push the children to do anything either, that would be counterproductive. It is important to find out which books are suitable for my child, to track down exactly. It is not the same for everyone.

You also advocate the traditional bookshelf. Doesn't it matter in what form you consume the book?
If books are part of life and part of the environment, it leads to the fact that children accept the books more for themselves. So I think it's important that books are also present in the apartment. Besides, you can't read all the books at the same time. Some of them just have to be parked in the bookshelf.

Do you have any more tips on how to deal with a reading grumpy?
Sometimes it is enough to find a nice place to read. Climb into a tree house together to read aloud or cuddle up in bed for two in the evening. Then it is also a ritual that goes beyond reading. Reading aloud also means giving attention and having a good time. Maybe a drink with it. You can also come up with something completely different. In a clown story, disguise yourself or the child as a clown. I give a few tips on this in my book. For example, that you can take a bell with you if a bell appears in the story. If you communicate yourself that reading is a beautiful thing, you will also convince your child.

What is your favorite children's or youth book?
I grew up in the west, but my grandma lived in the GDR. The children's and young people's books were very well looked after there. I got a lot of books from her, for example by Ludwig Renn or science fiction novels by Rainer Fuhrmann. I can well remember “The Red Zora and Her Gang”. Later I thought “Jim Button and the Engine Driver” and “Die Wilde 13” were great. I also read Kalle Blomquist a lot and had a lot of fun with it.

Christoph Biemann explains the world to children in the show with the mouse. Together with the writer Thomas Montasser he wrote the book “Letter Magic - How to get your child excited about reading“Written. The two give suggestions on how parents can motivate their offspring to read books and explain why fictional stories, novels or fantasy stories are so important for personal development. How do you find the right reading for young people and how do you turn reading or reading aloud into a special event? To do this, they have several approaches ready in several chapters. The book was published by Mosaik-Verlag and costs 16 euros. Incidentally, Biemann is also the father and stepfather of a total of four children and will soon have five grandchildren.

Saara von Alten conducted the interview.

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