Five ways to use literature to encourage positive changes in children

By Ken Myers

It is well-known that children who read well experience greater progress in their academic studies. However, literature also is a valuable tool for teaching and reinforcing positive social skills that can help keep children on the right track when it comes to behavior. In fact, the power of literature is so strong, that many juvenile correction systems are implementing the use of required reading as an alternative to other types of punishment. Because literature has the potential to inspire positive change in children, parents and other adults who work with youths may want to try a few of the following ideas in order to begin seeing the effects of literature on a child’s social and emotional development.

1. Create a ritual. Children thrive on routine. This is especially true for children who come from rough backgrounds or who have been forced to overcome significant challenges. Younger children may benefit from having a set bedtime story ritual, while older children can find a regular reading schedule calming. This way, there is a portion of the day set aside that they can depend upon always being the same.

2. Use a book to approach a difficult issue. Working with children can lead to a need for some difficult conversations. Often, adults and children may struggle with ways to bring up particularly challenging topics. For this reason, books are often the perfect way to introduce specific topics for conversation. Through literature, you can seamlessly ease into topics such as divorce, death, and abuse.

3. Explore a common interest. For many children, bonding is a difficult process. However, when a child shares a common interest with an adult, the child is more likely to trust the adult for advice. This can be especially vital for juveniles to make progress towards their goals for better behavior. For this reason, try finding a common interest that you and your child can explore through reading specific literature and books.

4. Make a memory book. When children attempt to learn how to make better decisions, you can help them learn how to focus on the positive aspects of their lives. In these instances, encourage children to create their own literature. By making memory books, children develop powerful resources to track the positive changes occurring in their lives. In a group setting, each member can choose to create a page that everyone can read.

5. Extend reading through activities. Children learn best when they actively participate in an experience. For this reason, extend a literary assignment to include a physical activity. For example, a child who reads a sports-themed book may then enjoy taking part in a real-life game. This can reinforce the concepts the child learned in the story, such as the importance of teamwork.

When children read books, they are able to enter into a world where learning can take place regarding a variety of subjects. Not only is literature an excellent tool for teaching academics, but it is also a valuable resource for helping children learn positive social skills that will enable them to make better decisions. This is especially true for children who may not have had positive role models in the past. Literature should be an important part of any child’s life and supported through the efforts of adults who are dedicated to ensuring the child will have the best opportunities for success.

Ken Myers is the editor in chief and frequent contributor of http://www.gonannies.com/. Ken helps acquire knowledge on the duties & responsibilities of nannies to society. You can reach him at kmyers.ceo@gmail.com.

Image: Frederick Noronha on flickr.com

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11 Comments on “Five ways to use literature to encourage positive changes in children”

  1. Bob says:

    Great ideas here, Ken. We need to get children to love books as soon as possible, and we need ideas like these to make sure that adults inspire children to read. And, in the process, perhaps we need more books and less mobile devices? What do you think?

  2. Lola says:

    I agree that developing a routine to get kids reading as soon as possible is integral in helping them develop a passion for reading in the future.

  3. Julia says:

    I agree with these sentiments completely. When I was growing up reading was my ultimate mode of relaxation and peace. Nowadays, with all of the stress our society places on electronics, I worry that it’s going to get a lot harder to convince children that reading is as much fun as playing a video game. I see it with my younger brother- whereas I used to sit and read before bed, he watches an episode of “Modern Family” on Hulu. Although at times it might seem easier to sit your child in front of the TV, I think for intellectual and personal growth it is crucial to maintain literature in a child’s life.

  4. James says:

    This is a wonderful piece that highlights how literature can be used to reinforce positive changes in children. As a child, I recall reading picture books on how to behave properly at different settings – in the classroom, at the dining table or the playground. These picture books reinforced my parents’ instructions on proper behavior at these settings and helped me determine the socially acceptable code of conduct. I can also relate to the extension of reading through activities. My parents used a picture book about swimming to encourage me to take swimming lessons, and eventually transition to competitive swimming at the local swimming club. I think there is potential for families to use literature more effectively to encourage and nurture positive change in children.

  5. Jess says:

    I love the idea of using a book to approach a difficult topic. One of the wonderful things about literature is that there is never just one “correct” answer or reaction to a specific text. When talking about challenging topics with children, it can be near impossible to know the “best” way to do so. However, if the book addresses the same topic, this can start a conversation about how the topic affects the characters in the book. The child is less likely to feel afraid and more likely to reveal how they are feeling about the topic through the guise of what they say the characters must be feeling.

  6. Nelly says:

    I completely agree that literature is a very powerful tool in approaching many different topics and issues that are more difficult to bring up on a regular basis. I also think that it is a lot more powerful than some of the more modern media such as Television. The beautiful thing about literature is that it enables one to picture the story according to one’s own imagination, in the contrary to movies or TV where the picture are just thrown at us. Every reader can picture the story and the characters in the story the way that they would like them to be, which makes it much easier to connect to one’s own life and story in my opinion. I think that, allowing young children to use this creativity and encouraging them to connect their own lives with the stories that they are exposed to is key to a healthy development. In a way, I believe that it helps them place themselves into our society.

  7. Frishta says:

    I think that a lot of people don’t realize the importance of literature in a child’s life, and this article really explains how vital that is. Children need books to not only improve their vocabulary and increase their academic skills, but to also be able to tie what the’ve read that day to everyday lessons/challenges they come across in the future. I think that different books can also help children cope with different difficult situations, like bullying or loneliness. Reading can help a child find peace and privacy on their own, and it definitely helps their development as they grow older. This article does a great job at explaining all these important points.

  8. Sophie says:

    I liked that this piece brought up the fact that literature can often introduce difficult subjects. Thinking back on the books I read as a kid, I learned so much. Works of fiction always have elements of truth and seeing relatable characters handling situations that similarly affect you in real life can be a great way of dealing. Especially for children who can be easily impacted by what they read (for better or for worse). Even books as fantastic as Harry Potter introduce themes that apply to adolescence and growing up.

  9. Beth says:

    This is a very important notion that is brought up here. Children who grow up surrounded by literature and books are the ones who have a better foundation for school and really the rest of their lives. I enjoyed the third idea of finding a common interest is crucial. Finding a common intrest is vital to building a relationship with children – a common interest may be something small, such as a common sport that the adult and child both like to watch. Creating this common ground early will allow the children have a bond with the child. It is also important to keep in mind that developing a relationship with a child will not occur at the same rate for all children. Nonetheless, it’s important to be persistant with the ritual the adult and child have created (#1).

  10. A says:

    These are very important and change focused notions from every mind of the thought expressed. What i want to supplement to all these points is say that by all the activities recommended link to the behaviors of the children to change at certain time and certain growth of them.

  11. These are very important and change focused notions from every mind of the thought expressed. What i want to supplement to all these points is say that by all the activities recommended link to the behaviors of the children to change at certain time and certain growth of them


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