How to Inculcate Reading Habits in Your Child?
“Reading is to the mind what exercise is to the body” – Joseph Addison
One cannot talk enough about the benefits of reading among children. It not only opens up a window to their imagination into a world quite different from their own but also helps them learn about things, places and events which they might never get to experience themselves. Early reading helps in increasing learning aptitude and also expands their vocabulary. It helps in retention of information, improve interpersonal skills and in most cases helps instill the feeling of empathy towards a particular character or situation.
So what does reading do to a young mind? There are several studies which has established that children who are read to in their early years develop higher learning skills. Their attention span increases as listening to stories or reading them requires a lot of focus. Though in the initial days their mind might wander and some of them need rereading of the same story or book, over a period of time children are able to listen to or read continuously without getting distracted. This will help immensely at school as well, as they are able to grasp new concepts quicker than most non-readers. Young readers generally tend to be smarter because of all the knowledge they’ve gained through reading. They are likely to able to put into practice the things that they have learnt when faced with situations similar to the ones they have read about. A simple story like “Red Riding Hood” teaches the young mind that it is unsafe to talk to strangers and give out personal information to them in a more practical way that just preaching to them about the dangers of talking to strangers. Older children at times decipher more that what the book offers at a surface level.
All of us as parents want our children to inculcate the habit of reading regardless of the fact if we ourselves are into the habit of reading or not. The ones who have children who read take pride in it and the ones who don’t try to push theirs into it. So what is it that has helped these kids to become avid readers and what should parents do to turn their kids into good readers?
There are a couple of things that can be followed to instill a love for reading among children. Parents play a vital role in the formative years and teachers also need to have an active hand in fine tuning reading habits among kids. Currently most schools have a library but active reading is not followed through. Books are issued but there is no way to track if students are actually reading it or not. This is where parents need to pitch in. Reading has to be a hobby that needs to be cultivated actively at home.
Below are a few pointers that can be easily followed by parents to initiate their children into the amazing world of books. Depending on the nature of your child you can try all or some of these. You might even have to come up with your own technique as well. Some may work and some might just be a miss. Few children may follow through and easily get into the habit but with many it’s a long and sometimes draining process. Do not give up easily, there is a fine line between encouraging and forcing , make sure you do not cross it and give your child and yourself enough time to try each of them.
Reading – Start Early
Reading needs to start early, usually when the child is a toddler or even earlier. Parents play a vital role in introducing reading habits. It usually starts with Picture Books where the kids start associating words to pictures. This is the one of the first stages of learning new words and also opens up the imagination of the child. Though the association is based more from their point of view, i.e. the child will usually remember what pertains to their life e.g.- apple which is something they eat, bat , ball, cat etc which are things that they are able to see in real life and relate to. Over a period of time they are able to disassociate themselves from the words and see it for what the word is rather than how it is associated with their lives. It is important to read the words aloud and with a bit of animation. This will help in holding the attention of the child. Initially it is difficult to get them to sit through a book so reserve the reading activity for a time when the child is not over active. Also, choose books which have lots of colorful pictures, pop up images, flaps to make it a fun activity. If you haven’t started early there is no reason to fret. Fortunately reading is a habit that can be picked up at any point in your life. There are many who never read during their school days but turn into voracious readers as adults.
Practice what you preach
There is no better way to lead children to the world of books than be a reader yourself. Children will emulate their parents and better appreciate books if they see you, parents, reading yourself. Make reading together a family time ritual. Cut off TV, phones and other distractions during this time. Tell them about the books you are reading and what you’ve learnt from them. Children will have a lot of questions, listen to them and answer patiently.
Choose the right books
The books that kids read should be appropriate for their age. Toddlers love picture books with the words written on them. Even though they cannot read, the image of the letters get retained in their sub conscious mind and when they start learning formations of letters in preschool most of the kids will be able to associate with the actual letter and their sounds. Currently, books for the age group of 4-6 are segregated into different levels based on the length and difficulty of words. Many publishing companies have reading levels from 1-4. For 8 year olds and above there are several books ranging from classics, to series and biographies as well. Once they start enjoying reading children usually know which genre of books they want to read. Do not push the child to read books which require higher intelligence than their age. There are enough books for each age group and there is nothing that can be more detrimental to the new reader than making them read something which they cannot understand or associate with.
Read more than just books
To a new reader the fact that they are learning new words and the realization that they can interpret them is very encouraging. However it’s difficult for many to sit down and go through the entire book or sometimes even a chapter during the initial phase. Give them the time and space to go slow and pick up the pace. Encourage them to read words out of the newspaper or pamphlets. It’s likely that they will only pick out words that they are familiar with but slowly they will try reading new words. They can also read out the menu card while at a restaurant or hoardings and signboards. The ability to be able to read these simple things will boost their confidence and make them want to read more. Encouraging them to do this often will eventually turn it into a habit and you will find children reading things at random.
Right time to read
There is no ideal time to read, anytime is a good time to read something new. However among young children bedtime seems to be the most convenient time for reading. Parents of 2-4 year olds can start with a story telling activity just before bedtime which over a period of time can be converted into reading time. For young adults reading has to be a free time activity. Encourage, but never push them to read. Make sure you make books available for them at all places. Do not confine a particular place in your house for books, have them around everywhere in your house .Make it a habit to carry books while travelling as well.
Discuss what you read
During the initial days children will take a lot of time to read, firstly because they have to understand what they are reading and secondly they are learning new words. Words will be mispronounced, correct them gently. If they do not know the meaning try explaining or a better idea would be to teach them to use the dictionary. Make it a ritual to discuss the book that they are reading. Show genuine interest and ask questions to assess their level of understanding of what is being read. Tell them about what you are reading as well.
Enroll them in a library/book club
The library is a great place for kids to explore reading options. It is one of the easiest and most economical ways of sourcing books. You will find several libraries in your city and most of them charge a nominal fee for membership. Enroll your child in one and give him ample time to explore the place and give them the freedom to choose what they like. There are different genres of books for all age groups and it will take several books to find what they like. It also can become a place to find other kids who share the love for reading. There are book clubs which have cropped up in almost every city of late; this again is a great medium to portray reading as a creative and joyous activity. Few book clubs invite writers and have reading sessions for younger audiences. Apart from this take your child to a book shop. This again is a fascinating place for children to pick and choose what they would like to read. Reserve a lot of time for this activity. Let them read the synopsis, go through the pages and generally enjoy being among books.
Since the advent of technology its use is rampant across all fields and books have evolved from paperback to digital as well. There is an extensive amount of reading material which is available online which is very informative and interesting, especially for young readers. If your child is tech savvy and does not like picking up a book try investing in a “Kindle”, this newness will trigger some level of interest and optimistically lead to a love for reading. Almost every book is now available on Kindle and you can keep saving the books on it as well. There are websites for kids where children blog and where you can find short stories for kids written both by adults and kids. Let your child explore this as well. Reading does not have to be restricted to just books, let them use tools like Google and Wikipedia to do research for their school projects and for sourcing more information about the things that they learn from school. This will give them a sense of being independent and make them self-reliant.
Motivate and Reward
To be able to cultivate an interest in any hobby parents need to continuously motivate a child. Telling repeatedly to read is never going to help; rather it might create a feeling of aversion and of being compelled to do something which is boring. If you constantly ask a child to study you know what the reaction will be and unlike studies reading is more of an optional activity for children, so tread slowly in the beginning. Try to make it more of a pleasant activity than sounding it like a cumbersome endeavor. Once they start reading make it a point to recognize their effort and listen attentively when they discuss what they have read or understood from it. Occasionally tell them about the benefits about reading and reward them with something of their interest. Buying them books of their choice as a reward is a great idea to further develop their interest and more books leads to more reading!
Use different techniques and ideas to promote reading. Some children take to it naturally and some require external factors to continuously advance the habit. This can be done using various methods. Create a chart or book which can serve as a catalog for the books that they have a read. Ask them to rate the book using points or stars. Include a list that will feature a wish list or an inventory of books to be read. Encourage them to write a synopsis after finishing a story or book. This will help you as a parent to understand their comprehension as well. For younger children getting posters of their favorite characters up on the wall will be a good idea. You can also create a book with new words that they learn from each book. Tell the child to pick 5 new words that they have learnt and write the meaning against them. This is will also get them into the habit of using the dictionary more often. Also measure the time taken for each story or book. In the initial days reading will be slow but with time the speed will increase, observe the progress and applaud it as well.
Through constant effort and encouragement you can successfully instill a love for reading in your child. It is very rewarding when you see your child develop into a more confident and knowledgeable person. Reading is a joyous and enriching experience. Nurturing this habit at an early age will bring a remarkable change in the way children think of the world and themselves. For many it is inspiring and life changing and for some it’s educational and a learning experience. In any case it is a win-win situation for the child no matter what the takeaway is.