Children are voracious learners by nature. Whether it is by exploring things or by reading about them, they have an inherent need to know more about the world surrounding them. Thanks to this intrinsic nature, it is quite easy for us to nurture and encourage good reading habits in children from early on. Here are a few tips on how to:
1. Don’t force reading when the children are not interested
As counterintuitive as it may seem if your child is not inclined to read at the moment, don’t force it, as it will only lead to resentment and dislike for books over time. Let them finish whatever it is that they are preoccupied with at that particular time (it could be perhaps a toy or a cartoon) before offering to read again.
2. Set up a book-rich home environment
Surround them with books, books and more books at home. It will be a matter of time before their curiosity leads them to pick one up. In addition, go to book fairs, libraries etc. and let them choose the books to buy/borrow.
3. Don’t confine reading to specific time slots or places
This point is contrary to popular advice but it has worked nicely for us, hence sharing. Do not confine reading to specific time slots, for example, like bedtimes, afternoons etc. or places like a specific room/book corner in the house. Read wherever and whenever your child wishes to. We read in the living room, bedrooms and sometimes even at the dining table if our son asks us to and at any hour of the day. The idea behind this is simple as any bookworm would tell you – It doesn’t matter if you are standing at the bus stop or at the checkout line or whether it is morning, noon or middle of the night, if a book grips you, you read it from the beginning to the end. No time or place constraint. Period.
4. Always keep children’s interests in focus
I can’t remember the last book I read about history or geography because frankly, these topics put me to sleep! The same applies to children’s books as well. If the subject matter is not of their interest, they are more than likely to shun reading. So yes, always, always keep their current interests and inclinations in mind while selecting reading material for them.
5. Let the children set the pace of reading
Letting the children choose the speed of reading is also very important, especially for younger ones. Young kids like to discuss each and every illustration in great detail before moving onto the next page because they have so many questions about everything. So, it is always a good idea to pause at every page or just letting them be the ones responsible for turning the pages.
6. Make reading fun and exciting
I don’t read any book to my son which I do not enjoy myself, as children understand non-verbal cues much better than grownups and can always tell when you are doing something for fun or just because you have to.
Secondly, it is important to never berate reading in favor of playing (or the other way round!). Both these are equally important and vital to a child’s overall development. And it is important that children understand this equality from the very beginning.
Again, to make reading fun and exciting, it is always a good idea to use different intonations for different characters and to act out the dialogues, wherever possible. (My son loves it when I do it, but on the flip side, I end up having a sore throat by the time the reading session ends from all the loud monster voices I have to use!).
7. Cite examples from recently read books when explaining concepts during playtime
What better way to demonstrate and strengthen the importance of reading in the minds of children if not by linking it to day to day life? So, it is a good idea to revisit the concepts, morals and general learning from books and apply them during playtime. Moreover, it’s much easier to make children do something (like cleaning up their messy rooms) by citing their book heroes as examples rather than just asking them to.
8. View and use technology as reading aids and not as hindrances
I am a big fan of technology when used appropriately and in moderation, reading being no exception to this. If we change our perspectives, using technology can be very helpful in nurturing the reading habit in children and not at all a hindrance.
These days, there are many websites and apps available to read e-books (Kindle, Kobo, Goodreads, iBooks etc.) and almost every book is available in its e-book format (and at a fraction of a price of its print edition). So, we use our son’s iPad as a reading device frequently. This is especially helpful when we are traveling and carrying loads of books is not a possibility.
9. Be a role model
If you don’t share a love of reading, chances are that your children may follow your lead. So, even if you are short on time, occasionally let them see you read a book or talk to them about your favorite books (or for that matter how much you love reading!). They will surely share in your excitement.
Being a SAHM leaves me with almost zero downtime to read, but I have a huge collection of print books at home (from the good old days 😉 ) and also tons more in e-book format. Our son knows that those are my grown-up books and also sees me occasionally leaf through them lovingly even if it’s only for 5 minutes. This surely has made him appreciate books more.
10. Don’t offer bribes for reading
Last but not the least, reading a good book is a reward in itself. Keep this stand clear from the very beginning. If your child is disinclined to reading (at the moment), there is no point in bribing him with extra screen time or new toys to read because the “intention to read” here is more important than the outcome.
In any case, chances are that if you have followed #1 to #9 above, you will never have to worry about #10.
Books have the amazing ability to transport you to different times and places and make you live a thousand lives in a lifetime. Nurturing good reading habits in children is your way of passing that superpower onto them and giving them a best friend for life. So, do try these tips out and soon you will have created the next generation of lifelong readers and learners.
Revisit the key points of the post here
Now it’s your turn – Tell me, what are the different ways you nurture and nourish good reading habits in your children?
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