It’s always great to discover people who are as passionate about kids and reading as I am and this month I’ve come across a brilliant Lithuanian children’s author who’s highlighting the calming power of books as part of International Children’s Book Day
Held annually in the first week of April, International Children’s Book Day is celebrated to inspire reading and to help bring attention to children’s books. Each year, a different country’s author is featured and this time around it’s children’s writer and illustrator Kęstutis Kasparavičius – who explains how books can slow us down.
‘We live in the age of information overload, haste and rush. But if you take a book into your hands, you immediately feel a change. It seems that books have this wonderful quality – they help us slow down. As soon as you open a book and delve into its tranquil depths, you no longer fear that things will whizz by at a maddening speed while you see nothing.’
That really rings true for me. When I was young, whenever I was feeling anxious I could rely on reading a book to help me slow down my thoughts and feel calmer. And now, as an adult, once I’ve got my head in a book I can lose myself in the story and forget about the stresses of the day.
Research shows a direct link between reading and mental health. One study showed that school-aged pupils who enjoyed reading were much more likely to have higher levels of mental wellbeing than those who didn’t. But research by University College London found that children today are spending less time reading and more time on their screens – which is having an adverse effect on both their mental health and their literacy levels.
Reading, says Kasparavičius, is the opportunity for kids to unplug from their phone or tablet and reconnect with what’s around them. ‘Books teach us to notice things. The universe of a book is wide open; it happily fuses reality with imagination and fantasy. Was it in a book or in reality that you were lying in the summer grass, or sitting with your legs crossed, watching clouds sail across the sky?’
I love that sentiment. When children immerse themselves in a book, they discover different places, interesting characters and new situations – and that sparks their curiosity to learn more in the real world. As Kasparavičius concludes: ‘Someone who enjoys reading – be it a child or adult – is much more interesting than someone who doesn’t care for books, who is always racing against the clock, who never has time to sit down, who fails to notice much of what surrounds them.’ I couldn’t agree more.
What will you be reading this month to celebrate International Children’s Book Day?