There are many little ways to enlarge your child’s world. Love of books is the best of all.
Having said that, ‘raising a reader’ is one the trickiest things we do as parents.
How do we ensure that reading doesn’t just remain a classroom skill? Rather a lifelong habit that translates into learning and success in all aspects of life?
Recently we caught up with literacy expert Priyanka Handa Ram, founder of REWA and contributor to the new REWA Seva Community Library. We wanted to get Priyanka’s thoughts on how to help children develop a reading practice at home.
Here are Priyanka’s top 15 tips on how to grab our children by their brains and get them to read.
1. Offer your children a choice of books; everyone’s interests are different and they may not wish to read what you enjoyed when you were a kid. Find out what’s hot and what’s not in kids lit today and help your children by giving them this information. Empowering them to make a choice will encourage them to read because it’s not what you decided, but rather what they chose. There is a multitude of websites and instragram accounts out there for inspiring book ideas!
2. Model good reading behaviour. If you sit in front of the telly all evening, they will too. If reading is part of your day, your children will be curious to know why!
3. Read TO your children. Many children above the age of 8 or 9 complain that they never get ‘read to’ anymore and they miss it. It actually inspires them to enjoy stories and value what they can gain from a book if they are being read to. And read with expression, children learn so much from imitation. They learn to pause at commas and full stops, build tension by using their voice and emphasise certain words like a master storyteller.
4. Shared reading: offer to read alternative pages, or in a book with lots of dialogue, be different characters. This could prove to be a successful technique for a book that they may not be enjoying very much or a book they find difficult.
5. Read the same books that your children are reading, this way you can encourage ‘book talk’ at home. You can share ideas and opinions, ask them if they have reached that exciting bit yet, what did they think, who is their favourite character etc. If they see you as an adult reading the same thing, and it is something you do as a shared activity, it will motivate them to read more.
6. Make reading a treat…. If they do something well, they get 5 minutes extra reading time before they go to bed. Or if they do something naughty, they don’t get to read tonight and lights have to go off straight away! It’s a subtle technique that subconsciously makes reading a valuable and pleasurable activity.
7. Similarly, don’t make it a chore or a punishment. They do enough of reading comprehension activities at school. When they read a home, let it be for pleasure. If you really want to do an activity based on a book, make it fun e.g. a puppet show for younger children. Or for older children create a piece of art work based on the book. You can also create a ‘book wall’ in the house which everyone contributes to and write one sentence about why this was worth the read. Write reading postcards (e.g. create your own picture front based on the book and at the back, write a sentence that starts ‘I would take this book on holiday because…’)
8. Try audio books or e-books for reluctant readers.
9. Start a book club with your child and their friends or enrol them into an existing book club in your community. It’s a great way to encourage any young reader.
10. While you should encourage children to try and finish a book once they have started it, if they are really not enjoying it, it is okay to stop and start something new. There is no point forcing them through something that is either boring or too difficult or too easy.
11. Praise them for reading a book that they may have found difficult to get through but still did. Nothing works more than encouragement!
12. Be enthusiastic and willing to share the magic of whatever they have read. Allow them to explore other worlds (fantasy, historic or even real) through discussions over the dinner table. Ask them ‘what if’ questions (e.g. what if you had magical powers you never knew about and were the one destined to kill the dark lord? What if you lived in Narnia? Or what if you walked into an enchanted wood? What if you were the boy in the striped pyjamas, how would you have felt?)
13. Encourage them to author their own books – and you join in too! Grab some paper and art supplies and create your own stories. After you’re done, take turns sharing them.
14. Incorporate books into your holiday traditions. Pass on a card and write an inscription in a Valentine’s flipbook for your kiddo. For Christmas, instead of a traditional advent calendar, read a book each night. Gift books instead of toys!
15. Ensure that books are easily accessible and don’t be afraid to incorporate them into your decor. In my house, the library is the centre point of the home and my children’s books are on the lowest shelves… often, I come home to see them sprawled on the floor settled with books they’ve chosen themselves.
According to Priyanka, children become more attentive and interested in reading as their understanding of the world grows. You can foster this understanding through stories and help them travel the world or across galaxies without even leaving the house!
Stories have the power to stimulate development across multiple learning areas and academic success, moreover, reading together nurtures the parent-child bond.
The adventures are endless, the skills learned are invaluable. Good luck raising a reader.