Oh the joy when your little one reaches for their first book and bugs you to read it to them over and over again!
But for many this love affair is a short-lived one as soon shiny new toys, animated characters on TV and the latest iPad games vie for their attention! Books are relegated to the shelves and become associated with arduous homework assignments, exams and school.
The good news is, you, as a parent, can do something to foster a lifelong love for reading in kids.
Don’t Take the Fun Out of Reading
Kids, and adults alike, are drawn towards an activity when they find it fun and enjoyable and feel that they are good at it. The same goes for reading.
If reading becomes an exercise in you trying to get your child to master pronunciation, spelling, vocabulary and sentence structure then you register it in their minds that reading is a laborious activity. So that will definitely not be what they will be choosing to do for fun or leisure.
Keep the Focus on Storytelling
We humans love stories and that is the common thread between movies, books, reality TV, a chat with a friend over coffee etc. – we are always receiving and exchanging stories about our lives and that of others.
Help your kids discover that experience in reading! Invite them to jump into a book, drift off to imaginary and faraway lands, get to the know the characters on a personal level, predict might happen next, find the humour, suspense, tragedy and talk about it.
Let the practice of reading impact their hearts as much as their minds.
Model a Love for Reading
Whether we like it or not, children are watching us all the time and picking up habits and behaviours from us. So if you shove a book into your child’s hands and preach the importance of reading but they never spot you with a book, then you are sending a conflicting message to them. Make reading a shared hobby within the family and show your kids that you enjoy it as well. Share the books you loved as a kid with them and tell them why you loved these books while growing up. Wherever appropriate, tell your kids more about your current reads and why you are so thrilled about them.
Make Reading Social
Set up reading dates for your kids just as you would play dates. Maybe even start a book club for them. Start by asking your kids’ friends and their parents if they would like to get together for reading sessions – a group of about 5 kids within a similar age group should work pretty well. Each month, the adults could give the kids a choice of 3 to 4 books from different genres and give them a chance to vote on what they would like to read together as a group. Depending on the children’s reading abilities and the difficulty levels of books, the titles could change at 2 week or monthly intervals. Incorporate activities relating to the books that the kids can engage in, prepare question prompts to get them to talk about the books, organise book character dress up days and maybe even cook special dishes mentioned in the books to add more fun elements. But be sure to not make it feel too much like a regimented class. Remember to keep it lighthearted, enjoyable and fun!
Help Your Child Connect to Books
Books become all the more fun if your child can relate to the characters in books and the stories that are unfolding. So watch the seasons and transitions in your child’s life and introduce books to them that could be meaningful during these times. For example, if you are bringing your child to the zoo for the first time, introduce books on the topic of animals to them. If they are preparing to enter school, share books that can help them prepare for this new experience. Weave books into your child’s life!
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