As a child I was surrounded by books. When there was nothing else to do, my sister and I naturally gravitated towards books. We did not have many children’s books though. We read whatever we could get our hands on. Our parents weren’t worried about what we were reading. We were library members and often visited bookstores- a very uncommon thing in India in the 90s.
I clearly remember picking up a Sidney Sheldon book to read, for the first time. Nowadays people might find it terrible that a child be allowed to read an adult book, but I turned out Ok, well, almost! So I believe any reading is good reading. The picture of a friend who would read the newspaper covering the fried snacks we munched on, comes to mind! 🙂 I encourage my kids to read all kinds of age-appropriate literature.
For kids ages 10 and 7, my kids read considerably more, They just enjoy inhaling the smell of a book, the anticipation of the arrival of a new book, the experience of doing nothing but immersing oneself in a good book and telling us all about it!
So how do you get them to this stage? Here are a few things that have helped me along this reading journey-
- Start early – This is a no-brainer, but many fail to do so in this day and age. They ask, here in India especially, ‘Oh what’s the use? The child is not even listening or understanding.’, but they do. I observed my daughter trying to imitate my facial expressions as I read to her as a baby. I let my kids play with the books, and sometimes even chew on them! Be prepared to read the same book over and over again!
- Read to your child – no matter how old they are. For a while I was ashamed that I was still reading to my kids when they were supposed to be reading by themselves. Oh what the heck! They loved to hear all the different character voices I made and I enjoyed snuggling with them on the bed and reading to them. But when I listened to podcasts like “Read- aloud Revival” I felt assured that I wasn’t hindering my kids’ progress. Most of the times, kids simply skim through the pages to get to the end of a story. They need to hear how a word sounds or comprehend the deeper meaning of a character’s speech and thoughts. By reading aloud you are taking their reading to a higher level.
- Keep trying new books and genres – I’m always observing my kids and talking to them about what their current interests are. When I found out that my daughter enjoyed cooking and eating, I bought her the “All Four Stars” book and when I realized that my son preferred humor instead of action in the Avengers series I bought him, I ordered the “Wayside school” and the “Weird School series”. It is frustrating when a book doesn’t end up piquing the interest of my kids. But I suck it up and try to put a different book in their hands.
- Read books yourself – Model the behavior you wish your kids to emulate. This applies not just for developing reading skills.
- Cut down Digital Distraction – We have a rule in our household- No TV until we have finished all our school work and chores and only during and after dinner. Getting bored and doing nothing is permitted but reaching out for digital devices to entertain is not!
- Carry a book wherever you go – so that there’s no chance you get bored on a long drive or a boring party! Sometimes I carry my kindle so that I can read aloud and all of us are happy! My sister’s mother-in-law keeps a stash of books ( along with some toys, which she changes often) in her car to keep her grandkids busy on their outings. I thought it was a brilliant idea!
- E-books are perfectly alright – I used to be a purist about paperbacks once upon a time, but now I buy whichever is cheaper and easily available.
- Talk about the books you’re reading– kids love to talk about what they do or read. Showing interest and really listening to them as they enthusiastically enumerate every. Single. detail will help build their love for reading.
- Don’t compare your children’s reading level with someone else’s- My daughter reads faster than me but she might be reading slower or fewer books than her friend. It is all ok. Reading , like any developmental phase, happens at different paces for every individual.
- Take a chill pill- you are not a bad parent if your child doesn’t like reading yet, nor is there something wrong with them. The problem could simply be not finding the right book to read. My teenage cousin wasn’t a big reader, but I like to think that I changed that by giving her the twilight series. Now she reads more than I do!
Ultimately, it is all about gifting the joy of reading to your child. Rest assured that they will reach out for a good book to escape when things aren’t ok and enjoy when life’s good.