“Books are the quietest and most constant of friends; they are the most accessible and wisest of counselors, and the most patient of teachers.”
Charles William Eliot
As a parent, it is our duty to introduce our child to this lifelong friend. Not only does reading help children academically but it also grooms their personality. It teaches them things not taught at schools and makes them live unique experiences. It can take them on a trip through space, bury them into the center of the earth or make them fly on a broomstick. It kindles their creativity, improves their vocabulary and teaches spelling and grammar subconsciously.
Though we are ready to buy any book our child desires to read and we keep harping about the benefits of reading, still some children show no inclination to pick up any book apart from the ones thrust on them at school. While our snobbish neighbour’s son is already reading Harry Potter, why is our child, two years elder to him, not even picking up Tinkle? What could be the reason for this? What can be done to change this scenario?
Here are some few tips to inculcate the reading habit in children :
1) Read with the child: If you want to inculcate the reading habit in your child, you need to work actively for it. Sit down with your child and read out to her. Whatever maybe the age of your child, if your child does not seem inclined to pick up a book by herself, then you need to sit down and read with her.
2) Read for pleasure: My earliest childhood memory is the spectacle of my mother loudly guffawing into her PG Wodehouse. The first thing I started reading, once I could, was PG Wodehouse and then I zoomed through all his books after that. Let your child view reading as a pleasurable activity. Children learn by imitation. The sight of a parent engrossed in a book, smiling to himself, is sure to kindle your child’s interest in reading. So, you need to read for pleasure regularly. Then, your child is sure to pick up the habit too.
3) Make reading material available easily: Have books suitable for your kid’s age, in a variety of genres, around the house. Keep some in the living room, study and the children’s bedroom. The probability of your child picking up a book to read will escalate depending on the quantity of books surrounding him.
4) Book trips: Kids enjoy shopping for books. Fix a budget, take them to a bookstore and give them the freedom to choose the book they desire to read. Investing in a library membership is also a wise decision. Weekly trips to the library is another fond memory of my childhood. Take your kids to the public library too. A visit to the Children’s wing of the Anna Centenary Library at Kotturpuram, Chennai is a spellbinding experience, and I make it a part of my itinerary every time we travel to Chennai. Apart from this, take your kids to children’s book launches and book readings. All these efforts will encourage them to read.
5) Develop the reading habit gradually: Sometimes, reading can be intimidating to your child. In that situation, start slowly. Let them read signboards, words on the television, simpler books, etc. Invest in a good dictionary and teach your child how to use it. Whenever your child comes across a tough word, encourage him to look it up in the dictionary.
Children may also suffer from reading disabilities that may inhibit their desire to read. If you suspect such a situation, get the child checked professionally.
6) Play with technology: I introduced my younger son to audio books when he was hardly 20 months old. He used to love the feeling of holding his familiar books and turning the pages, as an unfamiliar voice read out the story to him. Now, three years later, he still enjoys it. My elder son loves to watch movies of the books he reads. He likes to read the biographies of his favourite authors online. Technology is here to stay and we can use it in our quest to inculcate the reading habit in our children. When television and video games compete for attention, books tend to get left behind. Setting time limits on television and other screen gadgets for the entire family (including parents!) will free up lot of time for reading and reading-related activities. Do not make reading a compulsory chore for your child.
Children are sure to resist anything forced upon them. Make it a fun family activity. Then, it will not only foster family togetherness but will also shape the little readers into informed future leaders.