Friday, November 11, 2011

Encouraging our children to read

So please, oh PLEASE, we beg, we pray, Go throw your TV set away, And in its place you can install, A lovely bookshelf on the wall.
        - Roald Dahl, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory

Reading is one of the foundational blocks of any education.  It is a source of knowledge, happiness, and pleasure.  A child that is a brilliant reader is a confident child and is able to easily make the change from learning to read to reading to learn.  Anyone who is concerned with their child’s education wants their son or daughter to excel in reading.  Before we go into a “how to” of getting your child to read, we’d like to discuss how to set the stage for a successful experience.   The following are seven steps to create a healthy environment that will encourage your child to love books and love reading.
1.       Reading to your children

The most effective way to encourage your children to love books and reading, is to read aloud to them frequently. It’s never too early to start, in reality, the sooner you begin this journey with your child the better. Children as young as a few months old love to be read to, they enjoy seeing the pictures, hearing your voice, and repeating what you read. Story time is one of the most enjoyable moments for a child, and it is a great bonding experience. You will find it to be just as gratifying for you as it is for your child if not more so. For me it is a reminder of my childhood as many of the books I read with them are books that I read as a child, and they are just as satisfying and heart-warming to me now as they were then, the only difference being is I now have someone to share and enjoy them with.

2.       Be an example, let your children see you read

Kids love to mimic their parents, in the good and in the bad, so a parent must realize that they are the best model for their child. Your home must be a place where reading is practiced, valued and encouraged. Don’t expect your child to be an avid reader, if all they see you do is sit in front of the television. It is crucial that your child sees you reading often, whether it is a book, a newspaper, or a magazine. Children who often see their parents reading and studying are more likely to view these activities as a natural part of their own lives.
3.       Make books available to your children from an early age

You want your children to get used to handling books. Have a selection of cardboard books for the little ones who are just being introduced to the world of reading. They will learn to open the books and turn the pages with ease and the colorfully animated pictures will keep them engaged.  Make some advanced books available to them (so long as you don’t mind their going through a bit of wear and tear.) Also give them access to other materials such as newspapers, magazines, atlases, encyclopedias, coloring books, so that they can experience the vast ocean of knowledge that reading opens up.

4.       Encourage their personal interests

Make an effort to find books with topics that they are interested in, if your child loves dinosaurs, purchase story books about dinosaurs, factual books about dinosaurs, picture books with dinosaurs. If your child has a passion for cars and trucks, then find books about cars and trucks.  Encouraging their personal appetite in the form of reading will help maintain their attention. 

5.       Start a personal library for your children

Having a library of their own will give your children the feeling of ownership of their books.  To make it more fun you can have a carpentry lesson where dad “helps” build a bookshelf.  Set up a comfortable space in the house where they can sit to read. Buy them a comfy chair with a desk so that they feel as if they have their own special place.

6.       Take your children to the library or bookstore

We don’t have a library in our city with a good selection of children’s books so we go to the bookstore.  It’s like a monthly field trip.  Let your kids roam through the isles, pick books off the shelves, and look through the books.  Treat it as a big event; use it as a reward for finishing their meal, or playing well with their siblings.  Eventually they will be asking to you to take them again and again.

7.       Buy them books as gifts

Everyone loves a gift, especially children.  Gifts are a way of teaching value.  If it’s good enough to be wrapped up as a gift, it must be important.  This will teach your children from an early age that books are something to be treasured. It will also help to fill up the shelves in their new library.

Practice all of these steps and you will certainly instill a love of books and reading in your children from a young age.  Creating a positive environment is essential to a successful reading experience. These are just some of our suggestions of the things we have tried.  If you have any suggestions or experiences with ways you have encouraged your children to read, please leave a comment for all of us to benefit.