How to Raise Young Readers

How to Raise Young Readers
Guest Blogger Gauri Venkitaraman of www.tiny-tidbits.blogspot.in tells you how to inspire little readers.

"Oh! My child does not like to read books."

"I've bought so many books, many different kinds of books, but she refuses to read them!"

Comments like these or on the lines of these are more common than one thinks. They are heard only too often.

Most of us, as adults, reach out for books or magazines every now and then. Some of us reach out for reading material more often and others less often. Reading is a part and parcel of life. However, in today's world, which is getting increasingly electronic, reading is losing out to electronic gadgets and games. I guess that is one reason why parents start to get rather alarmed when their child/children show little or no interest in reading.

If I were to go back to my childhood days, I would say my love for stories and reading started at a very early age when my father used to read me stories. Stories have this immense power to stimulate imagination and in doing that, they have the ability to make the reader imagine different worlds and create some of their own. But then, there has to be a start somewhere. My father used to read me stories from a wide range of books and magazines and this had turned into a ritual of sorts, every single night. I still remember feeling on top of the world when my first issue of Chandamama was delivered home. I coveted that book, I treasured it.

For both me and my husband, books have always been an integral part of our lives. We did, however, realise that a love for reading is not something that simply gets handed down, generation after generation. Simply put, there is more to creating "little readers" than just the genes that they are endowed with.

Home is Where it All Begins
My strong belief lies in the premise that with reading, as with many other things, home is where it all begins. As parents, do we not teach children to walk, to talk, to eat, to dress themselves? So why should it be any different with inculcating a love for reading? I remember reading lots of books to my daughter (the elder of the two siblings at home) right from the time she was a little baby. She used to love the colours in the books, she used to love getting a feel of the books. Reading to her at bedtime was one of those treasured habits and it was a time we used to love. It proved to be a lovely way to wind down the day too. This little nightly reading habit soon became a tradition in the household and it was a habit we all loved.

Reading for the Love of Reading
Slowly, my children learnt to handle books by themselves. It first started off with board books and small words. It started off with teaching them the initial sounds of letters and then teaching them to put those together to form a word. Some words were simple and some not. This whole process, mind you, is a slow one. It does not happen overnight nor is it a cup of instant noodles. It takes time and oodles of patience, but once children learn to love reading, they have a friend for a lifetime in books. Over time, they started reading fluently. What really made a difference was the fact that they read because they loved to read, not because they had to read. In creating little readers, this is one aspect that I think is very important. Children need to read for the love of reading and not because they are being forced into reading books.

Pace Yourself
Also, as parents, when reading to children, it is always better to take books at the child's pace and not your own. It is good to stop at each page and let the child absorb the pictures, the colour schemes and the vivid tapestry that stimulates their imagination rather than concentrate just on the text alone. Many a times, pictures get children to talk more about the book, the story and the characters and this helps in increasing their vocabulary. Pausing and reading to them slowly, whilst explaining to them the finer aspects of the story, also ensures that their comprehension skills get honed. Comprehension is just as important as reading skills. If a child does not quite understand the concept or the underlying theme or moral in a story, there is no real point in racing through a book, is there? Learning to read does come first, but what is equally important is teaching children reading to learn.

Selecting Books for Your Child
Often, when reading with children or while selecting books for children to read, we, as parents tend to choose books which we feel they should be reading. While this is applicable to a certain extent, it is always better, within reasonable limits, to get children books on topics that interest them. When they are very little, they would be more inclined towards more colourful books with a funny theme. But as they grow, their tastes get clearer and it is often a good idea to let them read what interests them. The younger sibling at home, for example, used to read just non-fiction and trivia books, until recently. While we did stress on the importance of reading fiction books too, for the most part, he chose his own books from the library or the bookshop. Now, we do see him exhibiting an interest in fiction books too. Just as our tastes change, theirs do too.

But Why Should Kids Read At All?
From what I’ve seen, both as a parent and as a teacher, helping children develop reading skills is important because reading is the basic foundation for learning. Children who are good readers do, more often than not, get off to a good start at school and this, in turn, feeds and boosts their confidence levels. This turns into one of those cycles that simply feed and lead from one good thing to another. Good readers are more confident at tackling books at school, both in terms of reading and comprehension. Once that bond with books is formed, this relationship often lasts for a lifetime.

Books are also a good medium in helping little children cope with events that could bring about changes in their routines. For example, having another baby in the house or moving houses. In these situations, books and related stories go a long way in helping them cope with new feelings that they are faced with and with fears that arise from these new situations as well.

Most importantly, the one thing that books consistently do is stir, induce and inspire a child’s imagination. This is an element that is so very essential to a child’s all-round development, imagination being the very beginning of a child’s concept of abstract thought. Books encourage children to imagine a totally different world and then fill that blank canvas in with colours of their own. Imagination and pretend play also go a long way in helping children conquer their fears in different situations. Books have helped many a child quell those monsters that live under their beds.

Like someone said, "TV. If kids are entertained by two letters, imagine the fun they will have with 26. Open your child's imagination. Open a book."

(Image courtesy Thinkstock)

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