Inspiring a Generation of Readers

The following article comes from Author and Social Entrepreneur Natalie Reeves Billing.

Can’t see the books for the trees…

I suppose I consider myself lucky.

My love of reading bloomed organically, unforced and unchallenged. Due primarily to the look of total oneness on Mum’s face as she devoured her latest pile of charity shop books. Also, in part, to the distinct lack of gadgetry in the standard late 80’s home.

It’s a hard sell these days to ask our kids to put down their noisy little addiction boxes to enjoy the subtle escapism of reading.  It’s an ask we can only compare to tearing ourselves away from our own iPhones for even an hour. The pace of life has changed as we struggle to find space in the new world balance.

But for that very reason, there’s never been a greater need to reconnect with books. Books are so much more than letters on a page. They are a window into other worlds and perspectives, places we may never go. Thoughts we may never have.  Books inspire, heal, comfort, and advise, a companion in lonely times or periods of confusion, grief and upheaval.

When we give the gift of reading to a child, it is something they can cherish forever. An avid reader can while away the hours in blissful contentment. What other activity could offer such great value for money?

Simplicity is often all we need to find ourselves again.

When we read, we discover who we are through our responses to what we see in the world beyond the book. We learn to take time out for ourselves and make space for it in our busy lives. We seek out like-minded people and share the ideas and concepts which follow us from the written world. People who read often suffer less from anxiety, depression, and anger. Now, with the growing mental health crisis, I couldn’t recommend reading more highly.

I can’t help but sympathise with kids these days. Born into a world of ready entertainment and fast fun. Everything they need to know, see and hear can be easily accessed at the click of a button. The mystery of life is lost in triviality. It’s not for our kids to figure out how to factor reading into their lives; it is for us, who have seen simpler times, to help our children to make a place for it. It may take a lot of time, consistency, and patience, but it is well worth the effort.

I’m still figuring it out. My noble ideals don’t always go hand in hand with the reality of life. After all, there is work, lockdowns, health, and many other considerations, which often have me reaching for the iPads. We shouldn’t beat ourselves up over it, but what it all boils down to is this. If we don’t make an effort to get our kids reading, no one else will.

I didn’t set out with a preconceived conclusion for this piece. Still, in writing it, I seem to have arrived at my own personal revelation.

To create the next generation of readers, we need first to help them make space for it. Between school life, homework, extra-curricular activities, and of course, the dreaded tech, is it any wonder (forgive the pun) they can’t see the books for the trees?

Beyond that, we need to reinvent reading as the main event, not the task they must endure in order to earn time on the Xbox. I don’t have the answers; I’m stuck in this problem myself. So, let’s see this as an opportunity to have a conversation and solve it together.

Author: Natalie Reeves Billing

Natalie is an award-winning author and Social Entrepreneur

Natalie Reeves Billing is a Liverpool lass with a quirky sense of humour. She lives in an old farmhouse in Merseyside with her husband, two children, and neurotic cockerpoo, Scoobs. She writes fantastical stories for little ones, and eats far too many jelly beans. Natalie spent most of her early career in the music industry as a performer and songwriter. This inevitably led to storytelling.

Natalie is an award-winning author and a fellow of the School of Social Entrepreneurs/Lloyds Bank program.  She is the Early Years and Primary Ambassador for the Boat of Hope campaign. Social enterprise is a core part of her being, and she works extensively in underfunded communities, providing literacy and educational tools, through her ‘Builder Book’ project.

Her books won Gold and Silver in the 2020 MumsTv choice awards, and Gold in the BizzieBaby award 2021.  Her work is on permanent display at both the Museum of Liverpool and the Royal Liver Building’s Culture Capsule.

Natalie is published in several anthologies with her poetry and short stories. Natalie’s children’s books, ‘The Monstrous Me Collection’ & Ben and the Bug are out now on Amazon and on her site and her latest book, ‘Bernie and Boatie’ launches October 12th.

Connect with Natalie on Social Media.

Twitter @BillingReeves

Insta: natalie_reeves_billing

FB: NatalieRBillingAuthor

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