It starts off promisingly enough (Arabs should read), but then he gets down to why: to “learn” different “content.” (And if the same content could be learned from films, video games, or the radio, then he would advocate that. After all, aren’t those things more fun than reading?)
I believe many parents also have this wrong-headed idea: Children should read (only) in order to learn “things.” Children should read (only) so that they can understand more math, science, politics, and history. Full stop.
I don’t object to children learning math, science, politics, or history. But the title of this NYTimes article, from their Health section, sums up the reading conundrum nicely: Summer Must-Read for Kids? Any Book. That’s because the process of reading a book promotes more activity in your child’s brain. Technorati notes that:
Carnegie Mellon scientists discovered that the volume of brain white matter in the language area of the brain increased after study participants followed a six-month daily reading program. The Carnegie Mellon study proved that the brain structure can be improved by training poor readers to become better readers. [Italics mine.]
The same benefits are gained by reading Twilight or Harry Potter as forcing your child to read Ahmed Zeweil. All right, I don’t think that “any book” will do. Surely, there are some horror novels and the like with content inappropriate for children. Surely, there are some racist and sexist works, and ones with other ugly values, that we’d rather our young children didn’t explore. But again from Technorati:
If your brain was a muscle, how would you flex it? Stimulation and challenge is the answer to this riddle. Reading stimulates brain activity. Reading a variety of books and periodicals challenges the brain to think in new directions and absorb new concepts and information.
So for goodness sakes, exercise your white matter today!