Before I knew my girl was fluently reading fables and other story books on her own. I never had any particular age target by which I wanted to inculcate reading habits in her. I always thought she will do it when the time is right and no child goes to college without being able to read and understand things. So I was in no hurry. However, there were few things I was doing unknowingly, which were building up her love for books, vocabulary and thereby reading. Well before even she turned 5 years old, she was already a confident and a fluent reader and today when I see her surrounded by her books, lost in her World, instead of being glued to T.V. or any other gadgets, I feel contented and gratified. Her love and passion for reading is now equally shared by her baby brother who is yet to turn 2 years old. 😊
Today I am penning down everything that I did, which shaped this novel habit in my children with a hope that it may help many other parents who would love to see their children in the company of books.
- Read, read, read to them – every day, each night – If we want our children to love reading, we first need to read to them. Not just during bed time, but any time during the day as well. We started our journey with small board books which had pictures of animals, fruits, vegetables, etc. We had also placed various charts on every free wall of our room. So it weren’t just books but even the walls of the house provided us opportunity to read and learn. Children may show that they are not interested in hearing when they are too small, but trust me never underestimate the power of reading to them. Children may not show keen interest when we are reading to them, but they are certainly listening to us and thereby registering everything in their mind. Just speak out the key words from the books / charts and point to the pictures and their names.
- Tell them stories – Reading stories is different than telling stories. To develop their liking towards stories and thus reading at later stage, tell them stories at every stage of their life. Make up your own stories based on your day to day experiences. I have always been successful in diverting my child’s attention whenever their has been a tantrum bout, by telling her a quick story. It has not only bailed me out by soothing her at that moment, but has definitely helped in developing interest in stories, even the simplest ones .
- Make stories interesting – Sometimes even dullest of stories can be made lively by the narrator. Be that narrator who tells stories in innovative ways. Use voice modulations, drama, songs to make your stories interesting. A narrator can inspire the listener. Be that narrator to your child. This liking towards stories will make them inclined towards reading.
- Find right books / reading material for your child – Most of children till age of 8 or even 10 love picture books. Children may not be able to read the text but through their strong imaginative skills they can easily understand any story through its pictures. Try and find the age appropriate books for your children. While toddlers love big pictures with text of just one or two words, pre-schoolers may like books with short stories wherein they can relate eg Pepper and Bruno series. Stories which can be even narrated through songs like Thirsty Crow are also loved by children. By the time a child reaches in primary, he / she would have developed a liking towards something or some character. They love to read books related to their area of interest eg a child which likes locomotives may like to read Thomas Engine Every time it need not be a story book. An informative material about the genre he is interested in, can also be read for developing reading habits.
- Make available ample of reading material – Can we cook without having stock of ingredients in our house? No. Then how can a child read without having reading material in the house. Our house looks like a mini library. Books, kids newspapers, kids magazines, dictionary, encyclopaedia and many other reading material finds place in our house. All these reading materials are kept at conspicuous places around our home. Whichever part of the home the child prefers to play on a particular day, he will be able to find some reading material in each corner. Reading materials of all sort should be in the visibility and reachability of your child.
- Set a right example – Children learn by observation more than anything else. If the child finds parents’ head dug in mobile or watching T.V., they certainly will follow the footprints of parents and do the same. However, if the child finds his parents enjoying reading and finding pleasure in reading during their spare time, they would more likely be inclined towards reading themselves. Let your children see you reading and enjoying it. Share with them how much you enjoy reading and benefits of reading and experiences you have gained due to your own habit of reading.
- Exchange books and knowledge – Physical libraries with good collection of children’s books are rare in our area. If possible, join an online library. Make a circle of like-minded friends and exchange books. Whenever children meet for play date ensure that they carry a book of their choice along and discuss the same with each other. You will be surprised to see the stories that they will share with their friends and the enthusiasm will only increase, if this act is appreciated and encouraged.
- Encourage and appreciate – Every single step towards reading should be appreciated and encouraged. Encourage older children to read to their younger brothers and sisters. Older children enjoy showing off their skills to an admiring audience. Praise and prizes can go a long way in cultivating a habit. So, when you are encouraging reading habits in children, you should also appreciate it when they do complete reading a book. Reward them something they really like and they will certainly be motivated to read more. As they grow up, they will stop needing this extra motivation or the extra prize, because by now, they will already be used to reading so much. My LO always asked for more books as prize and gift and it helped her to make a wonderful collection of her own.
- Play games – I keep emphasizing on importance of play with children. The more you play with your children, the more they are deviated from gadgets and more they will be bound to listen to you. It also helps in creating a wonderful bond between parent and child. There are so many fun games which you can play with your child which will indirectly encourage your children to read. Be innovative and make them learn new words every day. (I will write a separate blog on the various games I have played with my DD which encouraged her to read and made learning a fun filled activity.
- Be persistent and do not force – There may be days when you may feel that your child only wants to listen what you read and never takes interest in reading himself. But stay persistent. Don’t leave the habit of reding to them. Encourage them, motivate them but don’t force them to read. Your child will definitely surprise you one fine day by reading something which you never thought he can. Persistency is the key for developing any skill including reading.
I hope that above tips helps parents who wish to inculcate reading habits in their children. Do comment whether you found this blog useful, as your feedback will encourage me to write second part to this, where I shall detail the various fun games we keep doing together, which helps in vocabulary building of children.