When you see a child reading on the train or at the airport, you wonder how her parents made their child fall in love with books. Because you encourage, nudge and push your child to read, but to no avail. How to help your child fall in love with books? There is neither a magic wand nor spells; just these simple tips and tricks should help you to make your child interested in reading. These tips are tried and tested by me – a bookworm mother of a bookworm daughter!
Start early: Engage your child in reading from a very early age. I remember reading to my pregnant belly because I had read somewhere babies in the womb can hear your voice. And then I would read to her (from any book that I was then reading) while breastfeeding. The earlier you start, the more chances you have of your child falling in love with books.
Introduce age appropriate books: When kids are surrounded by interesting books, they are bound to pick up the habit of reading. For a toddler, introduce board books, flap and cutout books. For a 3-year-old, give her books with big illustrations and short sentences or rhyming words.
Read aloud: Make a habit of reading to your child. And make it sound like a storytelling session, where you are using your facial expressions and hands to create certain situations from the book. It makes kids reach out for those books. My daughter is 7 years old and can read very well. But I still make it a point to read to her from certain books especially when I think she might not pick them up on her own.
Enrol in a library: Libraries with numerous books under one roof fascinate kids. I have actually seen kids whose eyes twinkle as soon as they enter a library or a bookstore. With so many books to choose from, your child is bound to pick one or two books that appeal to her. Also, when she sees other kids reading or borrowing books, she will be motivated to pick one too.
Let her choose: Whether you take your child to a library, book store or you are buying from online portals, involve your child in book selection. As it’s she who is going to read those books, it makes more sense if she picks them herself. Well, a downside to this is that kids more often than not pick the same type of books. My 7-year old is currently obsessed with Geronimo Stilton, Horrid Henry and Judy Moody. Though I would like her to pick up a classic, I know no amount of pleading or cajoling is going to help her make the switch. I believe parents’ choice of books shouldn’t be forced on their kids. If she enjoys these books, let it be. She will have ample time to read classics later.
Form a book club: Form a book club of kids in your residential complex or school friends and hold regular meetings. Encourage kids to exchange books and viewpoints on the books they have read and recommend books. Like in many domains, peer influence works a lot in book selection too. My daughter took to reading Junie B. Jones just because her classmate read and recommended those books.
Turn reading into an activity: For one of my daughter’s birthday parties, I had engaged the services of a professional storyteller. The storyteller read aloud from a book, and post session, she engaged kids in drawing and craft related to the story that they had just heard. Inspired by her popular storytelling/book reading session, I too read from a book and made my daughter and her friend do some craft activity. It was quite fun! Some popular books for drawing/craft activities are Three Little Pigs, Eric Carle’s The Very Hungry Caterpillar and The Grouchy Ladybug, making Truffula trees from the Lorax and Planting a Rainbow. Room on the Broom can serve for interesting craft activities during Halloween.
Make the book sound interesting: There was a time when my 5-year old didn’t want to read a book without colourful illustrations on every page. I had a tough time convincing her; she couldn’t be reading Dr. Seuss and fairy tales forever. So, I picked a book (in this instance Enid Blyton’s Amelia Jane) and described the protagonist (in this case – Amelia Jane is a rag doll, a naughty one at that and she bullies other toys in the cupboard). No points for guessing, I found her reading the book on her own the next day. For another book, I picked an interesting incident and weaved a story around it.
Gift books: For Diwali or Christmas, I gift books to my daughter. I make it a point that they are of different genre and authors. Though she is fond of toys and dolls, she knows for these occasions, she is going to get books and looks forward to them.
What you shouldn’t do to make your kid interesting in reading?
Don’t push your child to read. I have seen parents who constantly nag at their child to read and read some more. I am ashamed to admit I have done this too on occasions in the past. It made my daughter do the exact opposite. She would just refuse to read whenever I would ask her to. Instead I would see her reading all alone in her bedroom away from my eyes. That’s when I learnt that pushing your child to read makes her push books away.
So, I would say, encourage your child to read, but don’t force him. While reading is important as it helps in cultivating curiosity in kids and helps them learn about their culture and of others’ too, it is not a good enough reason to make your unwilling child take to books.
Don’t read just because it is expected of you. Many people say that children emulate what they see their parents doing. I know it works in most cases, but I am not sure if it applies to reading. Reading is a hobby; you can’t pick up a hobby just because your parents have it. It interests a child or not irrespective of his parents reading. My parents neither read or they encouraged me to read, but I loved books at a very small age. My siblings didn’t. And interestingly, my little nephew is a bookworm while my sister and her husband loathe any kind of reading. So, don’t pretend to read (when you don’t want to or when you are not enjoying) just to set a good example to your kids.
On the other hand, if your child only sees you flopping in front of the TV or fiddling with your smartphone, they will think this is how one should spend their free time. So, ONLY IF you like reading, take up a book yourself and read it where your child can see you. And if not, engage in a hobby, so that your child knows that in free time that’s what he is supposed to do – take up a hobby, that can include reading too. Let your child see you enjoying your hobby.
I hope these above pointers will make your child interested in reading and will help your child fall in love with books.