Beyond ABCs: Why Children’s Books are the Cornerstone of Education

Do you enjoy reading as we do? For many of us, the love of reading begins in childhood, often sparked by the enchanting tales and colorful illustrations found in children’s books. These unassuming simple stories not only captivate young minds but also play a vital role in shaping language skills, nurturing imagination, and laying the foundation for a lifelong passion for literature. But there is a significant number of people in the world who lack basic reading skills. Let’s discover how children’s books may help in their situation.

From the history of children's books

Books for children didn’t have a very long history. In the past, children didn’t have their own stories. If they were literate, they read what adults read, and many people learned to read by using the Bible. Back then, people didn’t really see childhood as a separate stage of life. 

Things started to change in the 17th century. A philosopher and physician named John Locke believed children’s minds were like blank slates (tabula rasa), ready to learn. He thought picture books would be a better way to get them interested in reading than strict religious texts. Even with Locke’s ideas, early children’s books were mostly about teaching good behavior and religion. Fun wasn’t really part of the plan. Kids often learned to read from simple boards with the alphabet and prayers on them. 
The earliest book written from a child’s point of view was “A Little Book For Children”, a small instructional 12-page book, possibly produced in the first decade of the 18th century, and signed with the simple initials T.W. 
Additionally, the first book specifically created for children’s enjoyment was John Newbery’s 1744 publication of Little Pretty Pocket-Book, which included pictures of children’s games, fables, and rhymes. 

Did you know? The most famous and successful children’s book of all time is the Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling. The Harry Potter series has sold over 450 million copies worldwide as of 2011, far surpassing the previous best-selling children’s book “The Poky Little Puppy” which had sold over 15 million copies.

Photo of Harry Potter books by Samuel Regan-Asante
Credit: Photo by Samuel Regan-Asante on Unsplash

Can all people on the Earth actually read?

The sad answer is no. The problem of lacking reading skills among people worldwide is a significant issue with far-reaching consequences. 
According to Save the Children organization, over 393 million children have failed to gain basic literacy skills by age 10 since world leaders adopted the Sustainable Development Goals. 
Action Education states that 773 million adults in the world (around 14% of the global population) cannot read or write, and the same is confirmed by UNESCO. 

One of the primary consequences of inadequate reading skills is limited access to education. Reading difficulties can hinder academic progress and contribute to lower literacy rates, perpetuating a cycle of disadvantage and limiting opportunities for personal development and advancement.  

Speaking about employment, lacking reading skills can severely impact career opportunities and economic stability. Many jobs require basic literacy for tasks such as reading manuals, writing reports, or communicating effectively with colleagues and customers. Without these skills, individuals may be limited to low-wage jobs or face higher rates of unemployment and financial insecurity. 
In terms of health, poor reading skills can lead to difficulties in understanding medical information and instructions. This can result in lower health literacy, which in turn affects one’s ability to manage chronic conditions, adhere to medication regimens, or seek appropriate medical care. Consequently, individuals with low literacy levels may experience poorer health outcomes and higher healthcare costs. 
Furthermore, lacking reading skills can have social and emotional repercussions. It may contribute to feelings of embarrassment, shame, or inadequacy, especially in social situations that require reading proficiency. This can lead to social isolation, reduced self-esteem, and diminished overall well-being. 

How can children’s books help?

Children’s books play a crucial role in addressing reading skills lacking problems by providing engaging and accessible materials that support literacy development in young and adult learners. It’s essential to provide access to a diverse selection of age-appropriate books, encourage regular reading habits at home and in educational settings, and incorporate interactive activities that promote active engagement with stories. 
Nowadays, you can find both physical and digital children’s books. While many people dispute about usage of digital books, we need to remember that times have changed, and technology has made incredible progress in terms of education.  
Physical books offer readers a tactile experience that engages multiple senses, can promote better focus and comprehension due to the absence of screen distractions, as well as special bonding experience for families. Illustrated physical books captivate readers with vibrant and colorful artwork. The combination of text and visuals helps convey meaning and enriches the storytelling experience. 
As we mentioned, technology now has major possibilities, especially in education. Digital children’s books often incorporate interactive elements such as animations, sound effects, and touch interactions. These books may include multimedia content like audio narration, music, and interactive games, which appeal to different learning styles and cater to diverse needs. 

Accessibility features such as adjustable font sizes, audio narration, and text highlighting, making reading more inclusive for children and adults with diverse abilities or learning preferences. And the big plus of digital books is that you can store lots of them on your e-Book. The whole library is in one device! 

How LanguaMetrics assists learners with reading skills

A real-life example of children’s books that can be used for education purposes is offered by LanguaMetrics, a world leader in speech recognition technology, under their RevLearning Suite.

At the core of the RevLearning Suite is the ability to help children (and even adult English learners!) “sound out words” – a critical component of the Science of Reading. The suite’s products, such as FluencyRev, PhonicsRev, and EnglishRev, use LanguaMetrics’ cutting-edge speech recognition technology to analyze each word a child reads aloud. The text is then dynamically color-coded, with green indicating correct pronunciation and red highlighting words that need improvement. 
These helpful tools were developed with the idea to assist children and adults with different needs: from non-native English speakers to learners with disabilities. 

A girl is sitting in front of the laptop with headphones on her head and reading with RevLearning Suite

This immediate, personalized feedback is a unique feature of the RevLearning Suite, providing children and adults with the support they need to develop strong decoding skills, fluency, and overall reading comprehension. By integrating advanced technology with the Science of Reading principles, the RevLearning Suite equips educators to implement evidence-based practices more effectively in classrooms. 

With a commitment to improving global communication, the RevLearning Suite serves as a valuable resource for international audiences striving to enhance English literacy outcomes for children. Leveraging the capabilities of speech recognition, this suite introduces a transformative approach to reading instruction, promoting student achievement and fostering the development of essential communication proficiencies. 

Let your children enjoy reading

In today’s digital age, where screens and instant entertainment dominate, the enduring charm and educational value of children’s books are more important than ever. Here is what you can do to help your children enjoy books and reading:

Create a Reading-Friendly Environment: Set up a cozy reading corner at home with comfortable seating, good lighting, and a variety of age-appropriate books within easy reach. Make reading materials easily accessible and integrate them into daily routines.

Be a Reading Role Model: Children often emulate the behaviors of adults. Let your child see you reading regularly, whether it’s books, magazines, or newspapers. Share your enthusiasm for reading and discuss what you’re reading with your child.

Follow Their Interests: Help children discover books that align with their interests and hobbies. Whether it’s dinosaurs, space, animals, or adventure stories, cater to their preferences to make reading more engaging and enjoyable. 

Use Technology Wisely: Explore digital resources like interactive e-books and reading apps that offer engaging and educational content. Balance screen time with traditional books to provide a well-rounded reading experience. 

Be Patient and Supportive: Every child develops reading skills at their own pace. Encourage progress, celebrate small successes, and be patient with challenges. Create a supportive environment where children feel empowered to explore and enjoy reading without pressure. 

Cover photo credits: Photo by Seven Shooter on Unsplash