In my most recent article, I suggested a couple of ways to help keep children engaged while confined at home, and one of the things I mentioned was to cultivate reading habits.
In this article, I want to explore this idea even further by suggesting some practical ways to develop reading habits in children just in case some of us may be finding it a challenge.
Reading is an excellent way to help our children open up to the world around them. Apart from developing language skills, it also enhances the child’s concentration level and thirst for knowledge. And above everything else, it helps children develop empathy (the ability to understand and share the feelings of another) and even improve their imaginative and creative skills.
If the above benefits prove of some worth to you, then you need to develop reading habits at a very early age.
I started reading books quite late, maybe when I was 30, but in these past ten years, I’ve seen how reading has significantly benefited me in innumerable ways.
Here are a couple of ways in which my wife and I developed reading habits in our two boys, hope they help you too.
1. Let the child see the words.
Before a child learns to read, they need to learn their way around a book. As you read, point your child’s finger at each word you read or make them follow your finger. It is a proven method for many parents, and even we’ve used this technique to develop reading habits in our boys.
As you do so, you are showing them evidence of correct directional movement while reading a book but also familiarizes the child with text and letters visually. When a child engages in the story using all his /her senses and intellect, the story comes alive to him /her.
In a study conducted at the Ohio university, one of the researchers, Dr Shayne Piasta concludes that when we show our children the letter and the words and even explain the meaning to them, we are allowing them to crack the language code in their minds. In doing so, we also help them understand the overall passage.
Try this out with your child, and you will see how early in life they start reading books.
2. Select your books wisely
There are over 2000 children’s books released every day, and I’m sure it’s a challenge finding the right books for your child. Selecting the right book for the right age is important too.
Instead of recommending books, let me share some helpful tips on how to select the right book.
When you buy books for smaller kids, look for the sturdy ones, they are called board books, easy to hold and easy to turn. They don’t get worn out either.
Search for books with large pictures or designs or photos with lots of white space around it and very few words. You can also look for books with just images and no text, like “A Ball for Daisy” by Chris Raschka.
Then there are concept books on topics like animals, colours, feelings, numbers & shapes. Also look for books with rhymes, stories and the ones with funny-sounding words are all super fun to read aloud.
Chose books based on what you think is essential for your child to learn. In the beginning, both my wife and I were very keen on teaching our children values, like respect, obedience, sharing, honesty, justice etc. and therefore we would look out for such books.
While choosing a book also remember to strike a balance between fun and learning.
As your child grows up chose a mix of fiction and nonfiction, start investing in books that introduce your children to history & cultures around the world that are different from theirs, books that educate them and give them a broader perspective of the world. ‘A Children’s History of India‘ is an excellent book that introduces your child to the early period of Indian culture and history in a simple and easy to understand language. I know I said that I’ll refrain from recommending books but couldn’t help it.
Finally, if I may give you one word that can help you chose the right books is the word ‘engage‘. Select books that help keep your kid engage with the real world in a meaningful way.
3. Set an example
Don’t be like the typical Indian parent who insists that their children should develop a reading habit but shows no interest in cultivating such habits.
Children learn what they often see their parents do; I don’t think I have to stress too much on this point. There is no age for you to start reading good books that help you grow as a person and open your mind to the realities of life from a different perspective. If you haven’t started it yet, start now.
4. Keep the spread within reach
One other thing that helped us cultivate and ignite reading habits in our children is by placing the books within their reach. Think of buying a bookshelf only for kids and allow them free access to it.
The more often they see the books in front of their eyes, the higher the chances are that they will pick them up and start reading.
5. Join them in their reading adventure
As our boys grew up, we realized the adventure stories they read from a book would play in their mind and many times slip into their conversations with each other.
As parents, we decided to join them on their journey. We talk about it, ask them to narrate the story back to us, laugh at those scenes that made them laugh, feel sad when they felt sad after something they read. All of this, I believe, encouraged them to pick and read more books.
Yes, it is an investment of time and energy but its a good investment. You should consider taking out time from your busy schedule and hang out with your children only talking about the books they read.
6. Appreciate your child
It’s crucial for a child to feel accepted, loved, and appreciated. They like the feeling of making their parents proud. A word of appreciation occasionally given to your child will help them continue this meaningful endeavour of reading books.
John Maxwell, one of the well-known leadership trainer, once told the audience that his reading habits developed because his father would reward them with an allowance whenever they finished reading a book.
Find ways to appreciate your kid through words, gestures and sometimes rewards.
7. Take it to the next level
As I mentioned in my earlier posts, my best time with the boys is right before they go to sleep. We crack silly jokes and even makeup silly stories. Through those storytelling sessions grew a desire in me to write and publish a storybook for children, which I eventually did, called “The Mysterious Rocks of Village Yana“, and currently I’m also writing another one. I never thought writing would be so much fun.
We also encourage our boys to pen down their stories, and we’ve seen them develop their own fiction stories and write it down — some of the great writers were once ardent readers.
They say you learn better writing by first being a story consumer. Reading for pleasure is one thing, but what if reading can even develop writing and storytelling skills.
When your children start reading, also encourage them to think of their own stories and even write them down; this can take the whole game to the next level.
Hope I’ve given you compelling reasons to develop reading habits in your children and even some tips to start working on it. Let me know if it was helpful in the comments section below.
Also, If there is any question you’d like to ask me, please feel free to reach out.