With so many ways that children have to entertain themselves today, the love for reading is one thing that is often taking a beating. And yet, it is one habit that stands the child in good stead. In fact, experts point out that the child’s reading ability is the single largest co-relator with his academic performance. That is just one of the reasons to ingrain the love for reading at an early stage! Clearly just buying books for the child and hoping that he or she will pick up the habit isn’t enough. Here are some things that you need to consciously do to build a life long love with the written word, in your child:
- Read, read, read– There is simply no substitute for beginning to read to your child early. Active storytelling is bound to catch his attention and soon you will have him repeating the stories to you. Make reading time fun. Use many voices, innovate props and more to make the story come alive. Importantly also remember to choose books that are age appropriate so the child finds a connect with it. In fact go with the child’s latest fascination. If your child is into cars at this point, it will help to read stories around this topic.
- Creating a reading ritual- It will help to create a reading ritual with the child. While bedtime has always been proclaimed as reading time, the fact is a young child may be too tired to read at the end of the day. Go ahead and choose a time, therefore that works for him. It could be that post lunch hour that the child otherwise finds dull. You could even choose to turn meal times into story times. That it will help the child eat without too much fuss, is an added perk. Additionally creating a warm, cozy reading corner will also go a long way in fostering his love for reading. The spot may also become his retreat when he dealing with myriad emotions and wants a cooling space.
- Reading related activities– Taking the child for story reading sessions and author visits are also great ways to help the child develop a love for books. Theatrical performances based on books, puppet shows based on stories…the options are endless. You could also have a ritual where you cook a meal together while reading a recipe from a cookbook. Drawing the scene from the child’s favourite book together may be yet another way to talk about the book and pique interest. You could also introduce the child to the idea of having a book date where the two of you walk into your favourite book café and devour many books….and some savouries. Having a library membership is one great way of fuelling the love for books. Besides sparking the love for reading, that it will also be a bonding time for you, is an added perk.
- Be a role model– Surely you have noticed that your little one tries to copy you in just about everything that you do. Be it dressing up for work or doing chores. Surely seeing you read will be a great motivator for him or her to try and discover the fascinating world of books.
- Limit screen time– For a young child, books aren’t good enough competition to the television or the many other gaming screens that have taken over his world. It will help therefore to limit screen time, to allow the child to develop the love for the written word. When screen time is inevitable, try and introduce the child to the many reading apps so that you reinforce his reading habit.
- Don’t pressurize the child to learn to read – Much as we may want the child to pick up reading instantly, pressurizing him to do so will have just the opposite effect. He will start to view the activity as a chore and you would have taken away the pleasure he could have derived from the activity. Instead encourage a love for books and sure enough you will see the child learning to read. There is also no reason to pull up the child if you feel that his peers are already reading more than he is. As long as the child does not suffer from any reading disability, it is quite ok for him to choose his own pace to read. The one thing that you need to take care of is to not make him feel “ not enough” if his pace is slow. You would have hampered his self esteem for life and not done much for his reading skills as well. Also remember, “when we were your age”….rant does precious little to get the child to read. On the other hand, you could talk to the child about the books you loved and could have a cozy session reading out your favourite book to him.
- Choose books carefully– Once he does learn how to read, spend some time choosing appropriate books for him. Loading him with stuff that he finds boring, will be a sure fire way of turning him off reading. Go with what he likes though try and introduce new books, subjects and authors as you go along. Do try and offer him books that are a shade harder than his reading ability. You could start reading such a book with him and then leave him to read it on his own. Sometimes reading alternate pages with the child helps keep the flow going.
- Picture books– In the initial stages, picture books will be a great idea to initiate him into reading. Comics therefore work well for your readers as opposed to complete text books that may intimidate them.
- Don’t stop reading to him once he learns to read– As parents, we tend to abdicate our responsibility to read to the child as soon as the child learns to read to himself. Remember the idea is to foster reading fun. While the child may have learnt how to read, reading may still be laborious. He still needs parents to read to him. Soon as his reading skills catch up he will devour books on his own. If the child likes a particular book or character, it will help for you to introduce him to the entire series and sure enough the adventures of his favourite character will lead him from book to book.
You may choose to develop many other reading related activities that work for the child. If there is one thumb rule though it is to ensure that the child enjoys himself reading. The moment reading becomes an activity that you want him to do and not one that he loves to, that is when trouble starts to brew. So just go ahead and allow the child to have fun!