Vinitha Ramchandani is an author, editor and a qualified curriculum planner. She has to her credit over 20 published children books, two of which are part of the CBSE English textbook as well as the ICSE English Language Programme. She is currently excited about an empathy project for school children.
Many parents in their quest to raise that perfect child come to me and ask, “How can I get my child to read?” I almost always ask them, “Do you read?” The answer to this question usually clues me in to whether their child does or does not read. If even one parent is an avid reader, this can translate into the child picking up the habit as well. To parents who ask me how to get their kids to read, to them I say, “First, you pick up a book, they will follow suit.”
The importance of reading
The first big reason to get your child to read is the five senses. Babies and toddlers are at a stage where they are exploring and discovering the world with their senses. This is why everything they come across is first put in the mouth, then thrown to the side. They need to touch, smell, taste, hear and feel every single object around them. For pre-schoolers and toddlers who have access to so much visual entertainment, a book gives them one thing that apps and TV do not—the chance to look, touch, read, feel and taste. Yes, nothing can replace a book, especially for toddlers who constantly perceive things through their five senses.
If getting children to read has been a challenge before, it is definitely more so now. In today’s day and age, if there are so many easier, quicker and convenient ways to entertain and keep a person occupied as compared to a book, wouldn’t most parents choose an easier route for their children, especially if children are known to have shorter attention spans? Besides, today’s children need colour, visuals and something to work their hands with. Not all books provide this combination so it helps to do your research and read a few reviews before you pick one off the shelves.
When you pick up a book, the feeling you get is not the same as when you read something on a device. A book is a time travel machine; when you flip through its pages and pore over the words, a book has the power to pull you along with it. We can all agree that today’s world is a world of information. The fact remains, all we need to do is Google something and we have the information right at our fingertips. The easy access to a wealth of knowledge has undermined the value of it. So if we no longer look to books for information, why do we read books indeed?
Here’s why: books are vaults of emotions; they carry with them decades of experience. Books act as stimulators and perform the basic word-building magic in a child. A child who reads is definitely someone who has better-than-average vocabulary, has better honed communication skills and will probably be able to solve problems faster, as compared to a non-reading child.
Books have been known to nurture character traits in children, and have been used to teach values such as honesty, kindness, sharing, consideration to others, bravery, generosity, etc. Children who read are individuals who will understand another person’s point of view. After all, an author or writers is someone who has seen ‘the other side’ and thus makes us sympathetic to ideas and feelings that have a deep importance.
While some people may consider books a waste of time, reading is actually the ultimate timesaver. When you read, you store small nuggets of information, flutter through a range of emotions and events that would otherwise take you a lifetime to experience directly. Literature is a device through which your mind can experience a reality unlike the real world allows you to assimilate—from periods of time, a parallel universe or dimension, alter egos to even the paranormal, books can prove to be the greatest reality simulator. After all, a good book is an emotional experience.
In a world where we are all battling with deficit attention spans and borderline ADHD, a child who gravitates to a book is a child who is calmer, has larger attention span and has a more active imagination than those who play on an app or who choose to read online. The fact remains that reading a book means concentration on the task at hand; when you are online, you’re spoilt for choice and can be easily distracted by something more attention grabbing—a catchy headline or an exciting online game.
This is precisely why nurturing the habit to read from a young age, can not only prove to strengthen one’s mind, it will make a person more open to new ideas. Here’s how you can make the right start:
◆ Find an appropriate time and place to read to your kids regularly. You will notice that this will engage your child’s imagination and there will be some stories they will ask for, over and over again.
◆ Reading aloud helps children remember words and phrases, increases vocabulary and helps cognitive development.
SIMPLE THINGS TO KEEP IN MIND IF YOU
WANT TO RAISE A READER:
● Keep books around you
● Visit a library once a week
● Read aloud and make storytelling a part of
your child’s day
● Take your kids book-shopping
◆ Moreover, research shows that children who read have more empathy, reasoning, creativity and problem-solving skills than children who don’t.
The right-fit book
Now, to get a child to engage with a book, it is important to find the ‘Right Fit’ book. Most books for children and young adults come with the recommended age group already in place. In younger kids, these indicators are helpful because it is the parent picking the book and ultimately reading along.
If a three to five-year-old had to hoose a book, she would pick one for its visual appeal. Her second choice would be a subject that interests her. No matter what the age, picking books with a subject matter that’s close to the child’s interest, is a great place to start. If your child likes cars and aeroplanes, then there are books that explore the subject or have cars or aeroplanes as protagonists. It’s the same for kids who love animals or nature. Parents need to see that the book tells a story and has a few new words so that you simultaneously build your child’s vocabulary. At the three to five age-range, parents should pick up books that are interactive, visually replete and colourful, and those that are great as concept starters.
The fact remains, kids develop at different speeds, both emotionally and cognitively. A child’s chronological age doesn’t take into account individual experiences, maturity, or sensitivities. While picking out a book for your toddler, do remember that picture books with two lines or less per page, is always less intimidating. Today, there are great books that tell a story without too many words. If there are too many tough words in a book, chances are, reading or being read to, may be frustrating.
Allow the child to steer you through the choices. Websites and howto books will give you important pointers like:
◆ If there are more than five new or tough words in each page then put the book away
◆ Easy-worded books can be boring.
◆ Introduce a few new words each book so that there is a take-away each time.
I believe that you should let your child steer you as you will also steer her. If you love books, you already know that each story is a journey. The key to piquing your child’s interested in reading is not just to build vocabulary or instill character-traits; a good book is about telling a story, but more importantly, it has to be about the journey your child makes with the book. Vocabulary and character building are all an inevitable outcome. You have my word! | MB