Children dislike reading. Thus, as a starting point, you need to talk to them about reading. Tell them what you thought about reading as a child.
“The more that you read, the more things you will know. The more that you learn, the more places you'll go.”
― Dr Seuss in I Can Read With My Eyes Shut!
Reading, yes, reading! Think of how often you are reading every day: Street signs, reports, emails, advertisements, grocery labels, medication, newspapers, websites, stories to our kids, you name it.
Reading goes much deeper than the basic need to function. I am sure you want your child to read well too, but the problem is, how do you do that? It bothers most parents that they do not understand how to go about making a reader out of their child. Hence, they consider it a tough job. Teaching to read is a joint effort of both parents and the child. You will have to decide how much time you can spare out of your busy schedule for your child. Block that time in your schedule, and then you will be ready. Remember that teaching to read is initially more of your effort and responsibility.
Converting a child into a reader is easy if we know how to do it. The task becomes difficult if parents do not have a reading habit. It is likely for them to see it as a tough job. Parents take helping their children to read as an opportunity to get reacquainted with reading. Especially when schools are still closed because of the Covid-19, and children have more time to explore reading. Children dislike reading. Hence, as a starting point, you need to talk to them about reading. Make it as interesting as you can. Tell them what you thought about reading as a child. Share with them your experiences and feelings about reading as a child.
Talk about reading
Tell them why you like to read or why you dislike reading. Make the conversation as funny as you can to keep your children interested. This activity starts a conversation that reveals the reason your child dislikes reading. You can convince your child that reading is simple if they call it simple, and difficult if they take it as a burden. Make a deal with them. You will read every book they will read. I did that with my children. Make them understand that reading is a fundamental part of a person’s existence. I know most parents at this point are thinking, all this is well and good, but at what age do we teach our children to read?
The good news is you do not have to wait for your child to be of a certain age to introduce reading. You can start reading to your child even before s/he is born. I am sure you remember the story of Arjun and Abhimanyu in Mahabharat. Arjun taught his son while in his mother’s womb the art of entering a chakrabhyu. This saying is an example of teaching/reading to a child in the mother’s womb. This is further strengthened by a modern-day famous saying, ‘learning starts from the womb and ends in the tomb.’ So, you see, reading starts with you.
It is rare for a child who was not read to by somebody special in their childhood to become a reader. There is more to reading books to a baby, toddler, preschooler, and school-age child than meets the eye. Reading to our kids, and exposing them to books in the early years, lays the vital foundation for raising a reader. Research has found that the stories parents/caregivers read to their children exposes them to diverse vocabulary, contextual understanding. This activity gives children a working background knowledge that is critical to language development in them. This activity enables children to enter kindergarten prepared to learn to read from the very first day. Research further suggests that reading to a very young child is all about conditioning the child to be a reader. Remember, your child has not done this before. It is up to the parents to model and to teach your children to read.
Surround your child with age-appropriate sturdy books. Initially, your child is more interested in playing with the book than listening to a book. So let it be. Let your child play with it. Teach your child to handle books, to hold it properly, to gently turn the pages. Believe me, it is going to be a lot of fun. Interact as much as possible. Try to raise the child’s curiosity. Talk about the book. Make reading fun. Initially, you will notice that your child wants you to read a set of books over and over. That is because toddlers love repetition. After much trial and error, you will notice that there are just one or two books that your child likes the most. Parents, please restrain excessive pressure, because chances are there will be times when you and your child will become frustrated and irritated. Let your child set the pace of reading, but you can set a pattern, like reading a book of their choice at bedtime for them.
Despite hectic lifestyles and busy schedules, reading together is a simple and enjoyable way for parents to focus on their children and relax. Children do not ask a lot from you. They only want your company and lots of dedicated time. Reading stories to your children is a wonderful bonding experience that proves to your children that they are important to you. It molds your children into becoming readers. The process is an integral part of teaching your kids to read, as children learn to read by being read to. As your children grow older, you will need to change your techniques. For the older ones, create a reading atmosphere at home.
Be a role model
What I found helpful for developing positive reading habits in a child was establishing a positive attitude towards reading at home. Creating a reader is easy, though we see it as a tough job because we do not have a reading habit. There are simple things we can do at home to help create a reader out of our children. The very first thing starts at home. Let your children see you or your family members reading. It does not have to be a book. It can be anything like recipes, magazines, newspapers, books, telephone directories, and other reading materials to reinforce the importance of reading. Make sure to keep plenty of reading materials throughout your house. This activity will help them understand that interesting reading is possible, even outside the school.
Yes, you have to be the role model for your children. Start with reading the newspaper in the morning. Do not ask your children to read the whole newspaper. Let them choose what they want to read. Later discuss topics they read in the newspaper. Do not underestimate the power of newspapers. It is an inexpensive, powerful tool to create readers because it helps children realize their topics of interest. Sometimes you can also request them to read the headlines of their choice of topic to you.
You will be surprised to see what interests them the most. It could be the entertainment section or sports or about various artists. They might even choose to read something written by their age group. You never know. This activity will get them going in search of materials they like on the net. You can even ask a few questions and have your child research it on the net for more information. That will get them to read without their knowing they are reading.
Children very easily get bored. Hence, make reading as interesting as you can. If your child is into computer gaming, get a gaming magazine for them regularly. My children used to get a gaming magazine for a long time until they decided they did not want it anymore. They were into playing role-playing games. All that fantasy moved them to read Star Trek and the next generation books before they were even in the 6th grade. I know most of you are saying it is easier said than done. It is possible.
Finally, I know it will not happen overnight. Change is gradual, but continued and dedicated reading will most definitely bring noticeable, long-term changes. More goes into success and becoming successful than just raising a reader because individual success depends on the individual. While you are supervising your child’s reading, always give priority to making books available to them. You can always forgo some of your chosen activities to divert that money to buy books for your children. A small sacrifice on your part will bring in impressive results later in life. Should we not start our little ones on the right path today? Think about it, will you?