Books offer a healing retreat for youngsters caught up in a pandemic


Johnny McClung/Unsplash

Margaret Kristin Merga, Edith Cowan University

Parents at a loss to find activities for their children during COVID lockdowns can encourage them to escape into a book. New research shows how reading books can help young people escape from their sources of stress, find role models in characters and develop empathy.

Recent media reports have highlighted a concerning rise in severe emotional distress in young people. Isolation and disruption of learning in lockdown have increased their anxiety. Given the recent surge in COVID-19 cases and lockdowns in Australia, parents and educators may look to connect young people with enjoyable activities that also support both their well-being and learning.

A lot has been written about the role of regular reading in building literacy skills. Now, my findings from a BUPA Foundation-funded research project on school libraries and well-being provide insight into how books and reading can help young people deal with the well-being challenges of the pandemic.

The findings suggest books can not only be a great escape during this challenging time, but also offer further well-being benefits.

Escaping from a world of stress

We know that adults who are avid readers enjoy being able to escape into their books. Reading for pleasure can reduce psychological distress and has been related to mental well-being.

Reading-based interventions have been used successfully to support children who have experienced trauma. In a recent study, around 60% of young people agreed reading during lockdown helped them to feel better.

My research project confirms young people can use books and reading to escape the pressures of their lives. As one student said:

“If you don’t know what to do, or if you’re sad, or if you’re angry, or whatever the case is, you can just read, and it feels like you’re just escaping the world. And you’re going into the world of the book, and you’re just there.”

Young girl reading book on couch next to window
‘You’re going into the world of the book, and you’re just there.’
Josh Applegate/Unsplash

Connecting with role models in characters

If you enjoy reading, there’s a good chance you have favourite characters who hold a place in your heart. The project found young people can find role models in books to look up to and emulate, which can help to build their resilience. A student described her experience reading the autobiography of young Pakistani activist and Nobel laureate Malala Yousafzai:

“I thought it was incredible how no matter what happened to her, even after her horrific injury, she just came back and kept fighting for what she believed in.”




Read more:
Nobel Peace Prize: extraordinary Malala a powerful role model


Other research has linked connecting with characters to mental health recovery, partly due to its power to instil hope in the reader. Building relationships with characters in books can also be used as “self-soothing” to decrease anxiety.

Young people also celebrate their affection for book characters in social networking spaces such as TikTok, where they share their enjoyment of the book journey with favourite characters.

Young people are taking to TikTok to share their love of books with millions of others.

Developing empathy through reading

Research supports the idea that reading books builds empathy. Reading fiction can improve social cognition, which helps us to connect with others across our lives. My previous work with adult readers found some people read for the pleasure they get from developing insight into other perspectives, to “see the world through other people’s eyes”.

In the project, a student described how reading books helped him to understand others’ perspectives. He explained:

“You get to see in their input, and then you go, ‘Well, actually, they’re not the bad guy. Really, the other guy is, it’s just their point of view makes it seem like the other guy’s the bad guy.’ ”

Your teacher librarian can help you

If parents are not sure what books will best suit their child’s often ever-changing interests and needs, they can get in touch with the teacher librarians at school. Even during lockdown they are usually only an email or a phone call away.

The library managers in the project played an important role in connecting students with books that could lead to enjoyable and positive reading experiences.

For example, a library manager explained that she specifically built her collection to make sure the books provided role model characters for her students. She based her recommendations to students on their interests as well as their needs. To support a student who had a challenging home life, she said,

“I recommend quite a number of books where we’ve got a very strong female character […] in a number of adverse situations and where she navigates her way through those.”

Fostering reading for pleasure is a key part of the role of the teacher librarian. They create spaces and opportunities for students to read in peace. They also encourage them to share recommendations with their peers.

In challenging times, many parents are looking for an activity that supports their children’s well-being. And as reading is also linked to strong literacy benefits, connecting them with books, with the support of their teacher librarian, is a smart way to go.The Conversation

Margaret Kristin Merga, Honorary Adjunct, University of Newcastle; Senior Lecturer in Education, Edith Cowan University

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Finished Reading: Dark Road (Book 2) – Escape by Bruno Miller


Escape: A Post-Apocalyptic Survival series (Dark Road Book 2)Escape: A Post-Apocalyptic Survival series by Bruno Miller
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

View all my reviews

From My Armchair: 28 July 2012


I am doing a little experimenting here, just trying to get a good format together for a new post I’ll be doing here on a regular basis (I hope). I thought I might start to do a regular reading progress type post, or something like that. It will probably be a weekly summary of what I’m reading and other book news ‘From My Armchair.’ There you go, that can be the title of the regular post. That is, book news from my own reading experience and exposure to books on a personal level, including updates from my personal library – that sort of thing.

Now to work out just what I’ll include in the post – it could be something like a newsletter I suppose. So straight up, there can be this sort of preamble blurb thing going on. Just a bit of a ramble about book stuff from a personal perspective. Then I can put down a few sub-headings with some structured content, relevant information and comments. Sounds like a plan I think. It will probably take a couple of weeks to come together and look presentable, at least to me anyhow. So it will be a work in progress for a while.

Something else I’m going to do is clear my reading list at Goodreads and have a new start there also. That way I can tie everything together and have a continuous and consistent story as far as my experience with books is concerned. That way, when I do this weekly post, ‘From My Armchair,’ I’ll be able to pass on a summary of my reading activity as recorded at Goodreads.

 

Social Networks, Web Applications & Other Tools

Under this head I think I can provide a summary of what I’m involved in as far as social networks and web applications are concerned. I use quite a number of social networks, web applications and tools in the area of books and reading, with a variety of applications and functions. All useful in their own way I believe. I think they provide a good means to not only glean useful information, but to also maximise the benefits of my books and reading for a whole range of activities that I am involved in. I like to see my books not only as entertainment and an escape from the world for a while, but also as tools for accomplishing many things within the world.

I currently use Goodreads as my social network for books/ebooks. I once also used Shelfari, being torn between the two, but now that Shelfari has closed the better of the two networks has continued as far as I am concerned. I am trying to use Goodreads as my online catalogue for books, so slowly I am adding them all to it. I also use a database on my own PC, which I am trying to sync with Goodreads, though I enter the information to both manually. It will take some time to get all of that done as I do have a large number of books.

 

Currently Reading:

I like to read and prefer reading to television viewing. I don’t like to waste my time and prefer to use my time in worthwhile pursuits. I do watch a small amount of television, but that is usually to further my intellectual development, so I watch documentaries, news programs and the like. I do watch the occasional program to wind down from time to time, but prefer to watch a DVD for that purpose as most of the stuff on the Idiot Box is just a lot of rubbish lol.

I usually have several books on the go at one time, but have found in recent years that I tend to not finish a lot of books also. That hasn’t always been the case, but it seems increasingly so now. I’ll be cutting down on the number of books I’m reading at any one time in the future, to try and ensure I finish what I start more often than not.

Currently, I am reading two books – well one actually, but about to start another. These are listed below:

– The Bourne Identity, by Robert Ludlum
– Killing Calvinism: How to Destroy a Perfectly Good Theology from the Inside, by Greg Dutcher

 

Finished Reading:

The Hunt for Red October, by Tom ClancyI did have a few books underway and these were all listed at Goodreads, but I cleared these a little while ago and gave myself a fresh start. One book I completed recently was ‘The Hunt for Red October, by Tom Clancy. I read the Jack Ryan series of books by Clancy some time ago and recently decided I’d read them again. I also watched the film again to see how close to each other they were – there was quite a difference between the book and the film. I have a post about this which I’ll link to below.

For more visit:
https://atthebookshelf.wordpress.com/2012/07/29/1614/

 

Purchased & Added to Library:

I have recently acquired a large number of ebooks, many for free from Amazon, including the following books:

– Killing Calvinism: How to Destroy a Perfectly Good Theology from the Inside, by Greg Dutcher
– The Discipline of Grace: God’s Role and Our Role in the Pursuit of Holiness, by Jerry Bridges
– Beyond Belief – The Real Life of Daniel Defoe, by John Martin