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?
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.