Some children simply hate reading! Here is why.

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Illustrated by Lakshmi Mitter

 

Jaishree decided to accept the fact that although she followed every recommendation in the book to encourage children to read, her daughter did not pick up the reading habit. A voracious reader herself, this was something that was extremely difficult for her to accept. But having hit a wall, she succumbed to the feeling that she can’t do anything more. Her daughter did not like reading the way she did. Period.

What did she do to encourage her daughter to read? 

  • She read to her every night
  • She drove her to storytelling sessions, even if they were far away.
  • She took her daughter to libraries and bookshops. She asked the child to choose books.
  • She left books at arm’s length everywhere in the house
  • Being an avid reader herself, her daughter saw her read everyday.

What went wrong?

  • She expected her daughter to pick up reading as she enjoyed it and wanted her daughter to be the same.
  • She insisted on the child reading on her own after she turned 6. She got upset each time when the child said that she did not want to read on her own.
  • She felt peer pressure. As adults we too succumb to peer pressure. When you see you friend’s children reading Harry Potter where as your child who perhaps is comparable in age does not want to move away from comics and videogames.
  •  She did not give the child enough time to learn the new task. Reading is after all a difficult skill. Try learning a new language and try reading fluently right away. Can you do it?

What does research say?

  • Children are afraid to read on their own
  • They worry that they will be quizzed later
  • They worry that they will be criticised, worse get laughed at.
  • They hate it when they are compared
  • They feel peer pressure and try to avoid reading when they fall behind in comparison to peers.
  • They are yet to find books that capture their imagination.

 

Books and blogposts on the subject of children reading can only give us generalised tips. However it is up to each one of us as parents to devise a way that is suitable to our child. It is a trial and error method. Some methods may work while others may not. Every child is different. Approach to independent reading therefore varies too.

If you would like to contribute about your experience with enabling your child to read on his or her own, for pleasure, please feel to write to me at lakshmi.mitter@yahoo.com. Your experience might just help someone who is working hard to enable their children to enjoy reading. 

 

If you would like to be part of a reading community that discusses about making reading fun  for children, MerryGoBooks has a quickly growing community on Facebook- THE READING JOURNEY. Please feel free to join in and talk about your experiences in this regard, ask for book recommendations, suggestions to get your child interested in reading and so on. Looking forward to seeing you there.

 

 

How to make use of pictures in children’s books to make reading fun?

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Pictures attract and motivate a child to pick up a book, as much as an interesting title does. Children dwell in pictures. As a child, I used to spend hours gazing at one picture, and imagining myself in that scene. I hope kids still do that, in spite of tv and videogames.”- Ashok Rajagopalan (author and illustrator of over 500 children’s books)

 

Toddlers constantly learnt new things by looking at things, touching and feeling them. As they grow older and begin to appreciate small stories, pictures take over as a means to learn new things. Pictures give context to the story that you are reading and enable children to understand the story better. If they like the story, they may want the same book several times. (Here is why-Why Do Children Love Reading the Same Book Many Times?)

Pictures help in learning to read

Keeping in mind that pictures/illustrations have been predominant in a child’s life from early on, they come in use even when it is time for them to learn to read on their own. When they learn to connect the pictures with the words that they are trying to read, the text for the first time seems to make sense. They gradually understand the purpose of text which is to fill in the gaps in the story that illustrations sometimes cannot show. Will Terry an illustrator with several years of experience explains it so aptly that it will change the way you approach the ‘reading challenge’ in children.

 

“Personally, I was one of those reluctant readers. If it wasn’t for the illustrations, I may have never loved to read. I pretended to read and just looked at pictures. Sometimes I would look at an illustration and not quite understand what was going on or why a character was doing what he was doing,” Terry says. “I had to force myself to go through the words and realize, ‘Oh, that’s what is going on.’ . . . It is our job to put the reader into the world that the author has created in a way that will make them want to read the text or make them want to find out more.”

 

Familiarity of the story through pictures enables them to recognise some words that can be derived from the context provided by pictures. This goes a long way in boosting their confidence and motivates them to try reading more on their own. First of all familiarity of the story makes the task less daunting. Secondly the presence of pictures as a helping hand makes the process a lot easier.

Find out more about how humourous illustrations can motivate children to read for pleasure from none other than Ashok Rajagopalan himself. Refer “In conversation with Ashok Rajagopalan” on READING JOURNEY

 

If you would like to be part of a reading community that discusses about making reading fun  for children, MerryGoBooks has a quickly growing community on Facebook- THE READING JOURNEY. Please feel free to join in and talk about your experiences in this regard, ask for book recommendations, suggestions to get your child interested in reading and so on. Looking forward to seeing you there.

 

 

Does Your Child Read On His Own?

The internet would offer you a variety of suggestions about how you can encourage your child to read on his or her own. But have you tried asking your child what he or she wants to read?

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Some children love books while others don’t. In my opinion as a parent the reason is simple. Those who don’t like books have not found the right ones to read. They have not found the ones that match their rich imagination and interests.  Thankfully today there are a variety of children’s literature being published, making it possible for any child with access to books to learn practically anything that fascinates them. The key is to provide easy access to books.

Why buy new books when my kid is not reading the ones at home?

We were waiting for a book fair to open at our apartment building. A mother was hurriedly walking away with her son, who obviously wanted to see the books at the book fair. When he kept insisting she replied, “You first read the books at home!” We all assumed that the boy loves books and she had bought quite a bit and buying more wasn’t an option. As if she read our minds, she smiled sheepishly and said, “He does not read at all. But keeps asking for books.”

After she left, one of the kids waiting with us informed us that the boy loved stories but needed help to read. “At school he reads well with the librarian’s help.” She also added, “It is so much fun visiting the library as Mrs.Sheela, the librarian lets us pick any book we want to read.”

 

It is so much fun visiting the library as Mrs.Sheela,
the librarian lets us pick any book we want to read.”

 

Curious I asked her if this boy also picked up books enthusiastically in the library. According to girl, he loves funny books and makes an effort to read with the librarian’s help.

Transitioning from picture books to early reader books

As parents, as our children grow up we tend to worry if their reading preferences also are growing accordingly. If one’s child prefers simple picture books even after learning to read fluently, it is natural to worry. Take the example of Mrs. John (an acquaintance) who is a voracious reader and it is absolute delight to listen to her insights about stuff that she has ever read. She told me with a lot of concern that access to books is never an issue in their household. Both parents read a lot and books tend to lie around here and there. Along with their books she said that she left children’s books of different kinds too. So when the parents picked up a book to read, her child had a variety to choose from. He had learnt the basics of reading and was quite comfortable. Being a voracious reader herself, it was hard for her to accept that her child wasn’t “really” into reading.  “He goes back to baby books! I keep telling him to move on!” she complained, looking visibly disturbed.

 

Being a voracious reader herself, it was hard for her to accept that her child wasn’t “really” into reading.  “He goes back to baby books! I keep telling him to move on!” she complained, looking visibly disturbed.

 

What went wrong? The answer is nothing! The child is on the right track!

The transition from picture books to illustrated books is a slow one. Children below the age of four or maybe even five years, would prefer picture books, in other words, books that have very little text and a lot of pictures which they can observe while the adult reads to them. That’s when the love for books, in general and story books in particular, begin.

Once the child starts to learn to read in the school, it is so easy to get excited and dream about how your child would sit reading for hours during holidays, just the way you did when you were a kid. Well that’s what I imagined:) But, if things were different for you as well, welcome aboard!

First of all, you most probably will not remember how it was for you when you first started to read. Second, your sweet memories of reading books would revolve around your favourite books that kept you hooked for hours and not any book that some adult imposed upon you to read.

 

Your sweet memories of reading books would revolve around your favourite books that kept you hooked for hours and not any book that some adult imposed upon you to read.

 

Reading on one’s own, takes time. From a child’s perspective – a huge step! As parents we definitely do have a very enjoyable role to play if we can give the child, the time and the support to learn how to read first and then enjoy something that is so difficult to learn. For starters, here is a link that helped me a great deal in the process.

Remember your child has learnt several things in the first few years of his or her life by simplying observing what is happening around and pictures from books. Not from ‘text’. To be expected to lose that habit overnight and read a book without pictures like a pro, is a  tall order!

The best way to let the transition happen is to allow the child to observe the pictures first before you push him or her to read. Yeah, sometimes you are pressed for time or simply lack patience. But nothing comes easy, does it? I tried this method and realized that I also enjoyed the picture book even more. Over time, it became an activity that my son and I would look forward to. We would choose a book together, talk about the pictures and then slowly move on to the text. Gradually my son began to improve and a year later he became quite proficient in reading on his own.

Talking to your child to find out what kind of books he or she wants to read.

I quickly imagined that he would hide himself behind books whenever he is bored and the road ahead would be smooth. Well it turned out that road ahead wasn’t as smooth as I thought it would be. His best friend at school was reading Enid Blyton’s Secret Seven and so he wanted to read too. I was super excited as I used to love her books as a child and enjoyed Secret Seven so much. I, of course, forgot I was much older, almost nine when I got on to those books.

With all due credit he did give it a try. But that was short lived and although his friend had finished all the volumes of Secret Seven, my son wasn’t even interested in finishing one volume. We then had a chat with him one day about the importance of reading and asked him if Secret Seven fascinates him. He replied, “No, there are no pictures. I want pictures.” That chat helped and we set out to find “illustrated books” – books that have few pictures and more text. We went book shopping together. He spent considerable time browsing books and picked up a few. Now, any time he finds himself bored and not having any ideas to play, he settles with one of his favourite illustrated books.

There are no hard and fast rules about what works. Enjoy the process of exploring and discovering the world of books without pressure. You will surprised by the results.

If you would like to be part of a reading community that discusses about making reading fun  for children, MerryGoBooks has a quickly growing community on Facebook- THE READING JOURNEY. Please feel free to join in and talk about your experiences in this regard, ask for book recommendations, suggestions to get your child interested in reading and so on. Looking forward to seeing you there.

 

What is the right age to start reading books aloud to your children?

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Illustrated by Lakshmi Mitter

 

 

The short answer is as early as possible. Babies are naturally curious. Anything colourful catches their attention. This is possibly the best time to introduce board books, with one bright picture per page. Needless to say that these books are made in such a way that they can endure any kind of abuse they maybe subject to, in a baby’s hands. What this does is to make books a part of their life, just as food is, parental love is, sleeping is and so on. Books become a source of information, a window to the outside world, so to speak. They learn new words by looking at pictures and hearing the sounds in the voice of a mom or dad. While it helps in bonding, it also instils the love for books early on.

Babies know how to choose!

Give your babies a choice of 4-5 books and let them choose the book they want to see. In all probability they would end up choosing the same book over a period of time and you will call that book, your baby’s “favourite” book. After all they are learning a new language and that needs repetition irrespective of how old you are! Read more on why they do that on  “Why Do Children Love Reading The Same Book Many Times?”

 

Showing a book to a baby is not the same as coaching your child early on for competitive exams.

 

One may argue that showing books to a baby is as good as pressurising the baby to grow up fast and try to learn stuff that are way beyond his or her age. Yes, it would be if you read to a baby story books meant for 3 years and above. Showing a book to a baby is not the same as coaching your child early on for competitive exams. This is very different as by reading a book aloud to your baby, you are instilling curiosity, setting aside time to spend with your child, to simply  have fun and bond over the process.

Babies are fresh and are starting on a clean slate. As they grow, their ability to absorb information from the outside world, only increases. If there is nothing to satisfy that growing need to absorb more and more information from the outside world, it most likely will die down, thus having a significant impact on learning ability in the growing years.

When to stop reading aloud?

It is easy to give up the reading aloud habit when the child starts to read on his or her own. It seems like continuing to read aloud will restrict the move to independent reading. On the contrary, research in the field points out that reading aloud to your child although he or she knows how to read, helps a great deal in enhancing comprehension abilities, language skills, the right pronunciation,  a room for discussing views and opinions and above all the feeling of still bonding over parents over an all time favourite activity.

 

If it bothers you that the reading aloud activity will prevent the child from reading on her own, try converting it to a shared reading activity.

 

If it bothers you that the reading aloud activity will prevent the child from reading on his or her own, try converting it to a shared reading activity. What this means is that you pick books that have more than one character, preferably two. You could take one role and your child could take another. The perfect books for this kind of reading activity is Mo Willems’ Elephant & Piggie Series. These books have two important characters who are both equally adorable. The story is always a conversation and hence allows role play. What this achieves is that your child gets to practice his or her reading aloud skills as well as have the satisfaction of being read to. This goes a long way in making children more confident about reading. After all reading is an essential skill that one simply cannot do without.

If you would like to be part of a reading community that discusses about making reading fun  for children, MerryGoBooks has a quickly growing community on Facebook- THE READING JOURNEY. Please feel free to join in and talk about your experiences in this regard, ask for book recommendations, suggestions to get your child interested in reading and so on. Looking forward to seeing you there.

Why Do Children Love Reading The Same Book Many Times?

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A book is a gift you can open again and again. —Garrison Keillor

 

I must have read the story of the Three Little Piggies about 1000 times easily with my son. No I am not exaggerating. It is possible if your child chooses the same book several times over several years, even after he has learnt to read simple books on his own.

Of course it is a brilliant story but to get read 1000 times? This book initially started off as an entertaining story. I used to change my voice, make funny sounds and we would laugh together. As we got older, the humour got old but there was so much depth of character in each pig. How the first two thought they knew it all and looked down upon the 3rd for taking so much time to build a solid house. We talked about how building strong things takes time. We talked about the foolish wolf who did not know when to give up and instead fell in to the cauldron of hot, boiling water. Later we even observed that stone was stronger than sticks and straw that the first two pigs used. So much learnt from one story book that we enjoyed reading together again and again.

 

Whenever you read a good book, somewhere in the world a door opens to allow in more light. —Vera Nazarian

How To Read A Story Book To Your Child?

Reading For Pleasure

It is a fairly well known fact that story books for very small children must have lots of pictures that are colourful and interesting. But is that sufficient?

From a child’s perspective, there is so much to explore while playing. Sitting still for a book is something that is worth considering, only if the book is catchy and allows for exploration of a different kind. A simple story book with colourful and beautiful pictures is of no use, if  it is not read out well. In simpler terms, it is boring.

Here is how you can change things and make reading an enjoyable activity.

Allow your child to choose the book from a small collection of books

Before you read a story book to your child, it is important to create the right setting. It helps to let the child choose a book that catches his or her attention.  The ideal number of books given as choices must not exceed 6 or 7 at any given time. If the child does not find anything interesting in that set, it might be a good idea to show a different set, the next day and not right away.

A fixed time everyday to read a book

Habits form when something is done repeatedly, at about the same time everyday. Making reading an essential activity every day reenforces the habit over time and the benefits are manifold. Of course it is important to make the activity a pleasurable  one so that it is something that the child looks forward to everyday.

Sit together or even better let your child sit on your lap

Research shows that emotional bonding over a story book has a powerful and favourable impact on young minds. Giggling over a funny story book together is a moment that you and your child will cherish forever.

Focus on pictures and not on the text

Children are extremely curious but with short attention spans. Different sounds, colours, pictures, expressions on faces etc. catch their attention. Focusing on the pictures and talking about them helps in retaining their attention for a longer span of time. When the story is being read out, several references to the pictures enables to understand the story better. Remember, the text makes no sense to very small children but pictures do.

Funny Sounds always work. Don’t know how to make funny sounds? Don’t fret, there is a way!

Changing tones and making funny sounds always helps them to enjoy the book reading session even more.  There is no hard and fast rule or method for funny sounds. Let your child be your guide. Try different sounds and they will show you what makes them giggle. Hold on to it and enjoy the process. Over time, you will be able to gauge what works and what doesn’t.

Reading the same book over and over again

Once children learn that books can be a fascinating place to go to, they ask for the same books over and over again. Remember, they learn something new each time.

So, don’t hold yourself back. Grab a story book that your child chooses and read away. Happy Reading!

 

 

“Who would you like to be in a storybook?”

9B7751FF-8D13-4D52-B637-EC63DCABDE90If you as an adult can come up with a good answer to that question in a second, you definitely deserve a prize. Try asking that question to any child and you will be amazed by how much they can come up in seconds.

My work at MerryGoBooks gives me the pleasure of asking that question, especially when I get a chance to meet the child for whom, the book is to be made. It is an absolute joy to see that sparkle in their eyes, when they understand that they are going to be the hero in a story specially written for them. That’s when we set off on a fabulous trip to their land of imagination where practical constraints of the adult world fail to apply. The feeling that they can be anything they want in a book appears to be a very fascinating thought. I have received very interesting requests such as eye surgeon, a painter painting a fresco of a peacock, an airplane pilot who saves lives, a super hero like  Flash  and so on. One even wanted to know if I can magically produce her book as soon as we finished discussing!

Some, given a chance go into a lot of detail. One child made the effort to draw his character in his preferred costume and coloured it in his favourite colour. He followed it up, ensured I had his specifications and illustrated his character in similar lines. Another wanted to wear glasses as he felt it made him look “brainy”.

Reactions on seeing themselves in the finished product

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Many a time, I am unable to meet the child either because they don’t live in the same city or the book is meant to be a surprise. In such times, I work with the information given to me by the client and try to incorporate things that the child likes as well as people whose company the child enjoys.

One client wanted to give a book as a surprise to a child whom she knows. The child, she told me is averse to reading and does not really enjoy books that much. In other words the expectation from the book was to trigger some interest in books. When the book reached her, I was told that she gave it an indifferent look. When someone insisted on reading it out to her, she reluctantly agreed to sit. When she realised that it was herself in a story book, she was so thrilled that she went running around the house, telling anyone she could find, that she and her best friend were actually in the book!

Allowing several levels of customisation allows me to create books for book lovers as well as those who hate books. That gives me a variety of experiences, one among which deserves special mention here. The other day I received a call. The voice on the other side sounded really young and I for a minute thought it was some kid playing with the phone. Thankfully, I did not keep the phone down as it turned out that the kid loved the book that I created for him and wanted a second one in which he overcomes a completely new  challenge. I must sign off now and attend to his order. I could receive a call anytime soon.

 

 

 

Cartoons Vs Photographs As Pictures in Story Books

 

 

Most children love watching cartoons. Needless to say, cartoons do not have realistic pictures or photographs but most often characters with exaggerated features. Many look silly in fact but kids love them. Silliness and simplicity of the illustration style appeals to them.

Any child who draws a picture is not going to be able to make a realistic picture. At the most the drawing might have some resemblance to reality but nothing more. To be able to see a story weaved around simple drawings with exaggerated features that are kind of similar to the pictures they can draw, kids are on board. You have got their attention.

Imagination

Children have very imaginative minds. They relate to abstract pictures as long as it has some resemblance to reality. For instance, a tree would be anything that stands with a bark and a shape on top.

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Pictures speak more than words

At times the pictures do the talking more than the text. Too much of realism in pictures leaves little room for any imagination hence letting only the text to do the talking. That is boring for any child who is less than 8-9 years old.

 

 

 

Most children’s books shy away from realism as it steals the depth from a story. It takes away the need to revisit the same storybook several times with the desire to experience something new or just enjoy the story for what it is, based on pictures that speak volumes, even though they are simple.

Observing pictures and visualising meanings of words

Drawings/illustrations enhance the story and the emotions. The context provided by them motivates children to go back to the story book again and again, to see if they notice anything new or relate to the text better by simply observing what the pictures are trying to tell. This is the first step to independent reading. Visualising what words mean in terms of pictures enables children to remember the story better and enjoy it more, each time they are read to.