East Derry MLA John Dallat has extolled the virtues of reading describing it as a gift for life and encouraging parents to give their children the bug by reading to them every day.
He was speaking after research from The Reading Agency suggested reading led to better economic outcomes and well-being.
He encouraged constituents to visit their local library on a regular basis, if they are not already doing so.
“Our libraries are an amazing source of knowledge which has kept time with change in how knowledge and literary texts for pleasure are obtained,” he said.
“Research, such as that carried out recently by The Reading Agency, confirms that reading for pleasure has a dramatic impact on life outcomes, including economic success and wellbeing.
“The research goes as far as to say that reading for pleasure is also responsible for the reduction of depression and dementia symptoms in adults. I believe reading needs to be introduced from an early age. As award-winning children’s author, Emilie Buchwald, famously stated ‘Children are made readers on the laps of their parents’.
“However, books are much more than a fantastic form of entertainment for children, especially in today’s world where we are constantly reminded of the negative effects of screen time. Reading books with children helps to develop empathy, enriches the bond between parent and child, enhances a child’s vocabulary and boosts their concentration,” he added.
Mr. Dallat said he had been dismayed at cuts to the Book Trust charity’s Bookstart project that has meant less children are now getting access to free books than previously.
“It was with great sadness that I learned that the outreach of the Bookstart project has been reduced to a very small number of families. Previously, all families were given book packs by their health visitor at the six to nine month visit and the two year review,” he said.
“Now, only a tiny percentage of families are given these and they are limited to the six to nine month review. This and the present disgraceful cuts in education are having a serious impact on children’s education and wellbeing. There are so many benefits to be reaped from reading with children, above all, it sets them up to succeed,” said the MLA.