Abingdon School headmaster Michael Windsor explains why there is no better time to start reading more.

I’M sure many of us will have spent time over the past few days thinking about our resolutions for the year ahead.

While many of us will be focusing on a new fitness regime or a healthier diet, I wanted to take this chance to encourage everyone just to pick up a book instead…

The value of reading seems just so obvious that we can perhaps sometimes overlook its worth.

For young children, it is key for the development of vocabulary and understanding of grammar that will provide a platform for their learning for the rest of their lives.

Reading is simply a wonderful way for children to learn new words.

They can become absorbed in a story and pick up vocabulary in context while at the same time learning good writing styles, without really having to think about it too hard.

The benefits of wide reading are apparent later in education too.

It is sometimes argued that children no longer need to learn facts as they can just look everything up on the internet. This is nonsense.

Without a strong core knowledge, how will they know what exactly they should be looking up?

And perhaps even more importantly in the age of social media bubbles and fake news, how will they be able to assess whether what they are seeing is accurate or free from bias?

A healthy reading habit will allow children to pick up the facts that can form the basis of good sense and discretion, as well as an appreciation of the richness of the world and our shared knowledge of it.

I also think reading can offer a valuable solution at a time when we see high levels of anxiety and stress in young people.

The opportunity to escape into another world where you can deploy your imagination and forget your day-to-day worries can bring palpable benefits to well-being.

There is also evidence that wide reading allows the development of greater emotional intelligence, as exposure to other people’s motivations and feelings builds empathy which can then be transferred to real life.

Of course, not every child takes to reading with equal enthusiasm.

There are many other activities which take them away from books and reading can fall to the bottom of the list of priorities, especially when adolescence hits.

This is where the most unsung of all heroes, the librarian, can really help.

The best librarians have the invaluable knack of identifying books that can appeal to every appetite, so do talk to your librarian at school or your local library to get ideas if your child is turning away from reading.

Adolescents can also sometimes go off fiction entirely.

Again, no need to panic, as there is lots of great non-fiction to read and sometimes they respond well to shorter pieces such as newspaper columns, especially if they carry a healthy whiff of controversy.

Often it’s a question of finding the right time of life to read a particular book.

As an adolescent, I felt that the works of writers like Barry Hines and Jack Kerouac spoke to me in a way that the books we were reading in school simply didn’t.

But as I’ve grown older, I’ve become much more wide-ranging in my literary tastes, able to appreciate texts that I previously dismissed.

Reading is a habit best started young, so the sooner it can become a regular and shared part of family life, the better.

Of course, the best way for parents to inspire a love of reading in their children is by setting an example and reading regularly themselves.

So what better way to start 2018 than by sitting back, kicking off your shoes and getting stuck into a great book. Happy New Year!