I was talking to a friend the other day. They recently moved to India after living in the United states for 15 years. She used to work as a child educator there. Initially, she was very skeptical about the schooling of her 11 year old in India. But is relieved now as her kid is having a lot of fun at school. Fun like sharing lunch box, celebrating festivals, and getting to know new friends. Despite these positives, the educator mum was feeling low because of the lack of public libraries for kids. “In USA, they say parents must read stories to kids for at least 20 minutes daily. And most parents do that. Because of this, kids get into a habit of reading. Reading is so important for overall development“, she kept on talking. Her words reminded me of days when we had to struggle to get our kiddo to regular reading habit.
Our daughter used to love to listen to stories. But she won’t read on her own. We used to buy her age appropriate story books. First few years the books used to be very colorful, had 3-D images of characters, and letters were written in big fonts. The characters used to attract her, she used to love her books. But used to expect one parent to do the reading. There was a time when her friends parents would talk about the addiction of their kids to reading. We just used to listen, and feel hopeless. And then it changed. It changed so much that she is almost addicted to story books. She also reads the bibliography of authors, writes excerpts, and gives suggestions to friends on what to read!
As I am composing this blog, she wrote a few lines about her experience. Here it goes:
” The idea of reading story books came about when I was 8. Well actually the idea came from my parents. But since I hated reading, I pretty much tried everything to make sure that their ideas do not work. Alas, my methods failed and my parents made sure I read. No matter how much I tried, how many obstacles I placed, they just passed. And boom! There was a sudden explosion by the time I was 10. The reading (story book) hater (myself) all of a sudden turned into a reading lover. From Enid Bliton to Nancy Drew series; to the masterpieces of Agatha Christie and Rick Riordan and today stories by J.K Rowling, I am among the most savage reader you will ever find. Don’t know how a stubborn person like myself changed. But, well, it did happen.”
So what should parents do to get kiddo to love reading?
1. Instill a regular reading habit: For some kids, love of reading doesn’t happen automatically. It needs to be nurtured and guided till they develop the liking for books. A regular dedicated reading time helps in the same. Give kiddo the opportunity to explore different kinds of fiction, poetry, graphic novels, books of world records and kooky facts, sports heroes, or gross-out science books.
2. Dedicate time into reading: According to a survey by the reading charity BookTrust, Adults spend more than 90 minutes on computers, phones or other types of technology, as opposed to just 25 minutes reading with their children. It also found parents were skipping pages when reading with their children, finishing the story before the end or refusing to read a second story. Almost half of the parents who admitted to doing this said they did so because they were ‘too tired’. So, it is important to give kids the love and support that they need. Sometimes, you have to read the stories. You can also negotiate to read half a page for every half a page the child reads.
3. Pick age appropriate books: That helps sustain interest. You can also pick books that match or slightly exceed the reading ability. This ensures continued effort from the child. The books that just exceed the reading ability helps expand the envelope.
4. Story clubs: Parents can host story clubs. Find out your kid’s friends who are into reading, and encourage them. If they are already into reading, then the peer groups will encourage themselves. If not, you can be the catalyst to get every friend into reading.
5. Don’t give up: Don’t give up till kiddo gets interested into reading. It can sometimes be a struggle to get kids interested in reading, but it’s so important, in ways we may not always think about. Reading and storytelling are vital to preserving cultural identity, developing healthy brains, and cultivating curiosity in youngsters. So, if your kid is not into reading be a role model. Take a few minutes, sit down and read a book yourself. You will see the difference in few days for sure.
Our kiddo has now started reading Harry Potter. And interestingly, the stories are included in her school curriculum. This has made her eager to attend the classes, and take part in group discussions. Now-a-days, she give us an update about the literature class after school. We are glad to see this change over the last few years. Now, we have enrolled her to JustBooks library. We also buy her books. We encourage her to write an excerpt after finishing a book. Our kiddo has become more creative, improved upon her vocabulary, and communication skills. The 20 minutes of reading time has become the most sacred time for her.
Albert Einstein said “If you want your children to be intelligent, read them fairy tales. If you want them to be more intelligent, read them more fairy tales”. We are glad that we read and read to inspire her into reading!