- My kid runs away the moment I take out a book.
- My child jumps up with excitement when he sees a book.
- My child loves stories but doesn’t read.
I am sure most of us would want to choose Option B – the dream-like situation!
However, it’s ok if your child turns the botty towards you the moment you take out a book or starts fidgeting with the surroundings whenever you start reading. Encouraging kids to read has been a challenge and a necessity ever since the concept of books came in.
Reading not just helps the child in getting grades, but it is an ever-flowing source of knowledge. Regular reading boosts a child’s imagination and gives freedom of mind. Books (beyond the ones in the syllabus) also help develop a child’s cognitive behaviour and communication skills. We are well aware of the innumerable benefits of reading, so instead of elaborating the same, let’s see how we can encourage our little ones to read.
First, try to figure out why your child doesn’t read.
Before finding a solution, we need to figure out the root cause of the problem.
Does your child enjoy listening to stories, but avoids reading?
If so, it might be because the kid is struggling with the vocabs and finds reading books to be difficult. Thus, avoidance!
Does your baby prefer other activities more than TV?
The first cartoon that got introduced to my child was Chhota Bheem, and he was obsessed with it – I took it as an opportunity and got a series of Chhota Bheem books. And it did help to the extent, where he prefers reading the books than watching the cartoon.
Find out what your child loves to do, who’s hir favourite character, hir favourite sports, and get books on them.
Tips to encourage our kids to read
Reading should be fun
Once the child starts perceiving reading books as a compelling task, you are done for.
And it’s not their fault – from the moment we send our kids to playschool, they are burdened with classwork and homework. The structured education system introduces them to spellings and reading from the age of 3 or lesser than that. So, even when we take out a storybook, the child starts wondering if it’s something related to their syllabus, which they are expected to learn.
It generates fear in your children.
To break the taboo, use props while reading, enact and encourage the child to do a role-play. Let hir dwell over the pictures and ask your little munchkin to build stories when you both come across an illustration.
Increase the options
Build a good collection of books. I remember my aunt saying – there’s nothing called a bad book. After Class 10 exams, when I started reading Sarat Chandra Chatterjee’s novel, my uncle asked her to select the books for me. But, she gave me the freedom to pick the novel of my choice. What I want to say is: Since reading broadens your horizon, let the children read whatever they can manage to. Never resort to force. That’s one golden rule to introduce reading as a hobby.
When the children get to pick a material to read, they feel they have control over their decision. And they feel more excited to go through something from their own selection.
Include reading in your schedule
Kids love schedule as it brings consistency in their day and when they can predict a day, they are less stressed out. Even we elders dread uncertainty, don’t we?
Fix a time in a day when you will snug in beside your baby, and you both will not only read the book but also discuss it. Speak to the child about what’s happening in the book and let hir share hir thoughts – how does the story make the kid feel? Is it giving hir joy? Has their been any new learning? Let hir express hir feelings.
Set an example
I firmly believe that kids learn from what they see and not what we say! So, if you want your child to be an avid reader, try to inculcate the habit of reading in yourself.
Once in a while, take out some time for reading together. While you read your book or magazine, give the child another book to read, or something with loads of illustrations, to keep hir engaged. Be prepared to be disturbed! Name this one hour as “we-read-time” or “family-reading-hour.”
Praise the child
Who doesn’t enjoy positive reinforcement?
Show interest in their reading and let them read any word that they come across – it might be a manual, or a recipe, or the labels on the cookie jars. When they learn a new word for the first time, they are super-excited and parents’ genuine praises motivate them further. Let them know how happy you are because they could read a word all by themselves.
Break their fear by introducing them to small sentences and encourage them to read “bit-by-bit.”
Get the right books
We must provide our kids with the right books. Don’t opt for a book because your friend’s daughter read that book at age of 5, so your 6-year old should also be able to read it. Understand where your child stands and buy a book according to hir ability.
Reading aloud should start from the age of six months (or earlier than that). Psychology Today says, no one is ever too young for books. By introducing kids to books in early life and reading regularly, you can encourage your child to develop an interest in reading.
As the child grows up, let hir participate in the reading. You both can take turn to read aloud, or select characters to provide voice over.
Most of us are stuck at home, with schools and offices being conducted online. Due to the global scenario caused by COVID-19, work pressure has multiplied and so has stress. Finding out time to read books, that too after completing all chores, might be difficult. If you are struggling to adjust to the new normal life, don’t be shy about using technology. Let your child listen to audiobooks. Though these aren’t as effective as reading it yourself, they are better than no reading.
Recommended read: Travelling with a toddler