Encouraging kids to read. How we can raise kids who read.
We all have heard how reading is great for kids, and while it is a great leisure activity, its other contributions are underrated. Even as a quiet time activity, reading is perfect in so many ways, but there is more to it.
So what does reading do?
Do you know that findings from a 1970 study prove that reading for pleasure does better at not just language and reading but also at numeracy. While we all expect kids who read to be better at language, but it is a bonus to have better math skills. The reason for this is better comprehension, better communication, and a better understanding of concepts.
Reading also introduces the reader to new ideas, helps explore untraveled worlds, and hones the imagination. Einstein himself is credited with saying that if you want kids to be smart, read them fairy tales and if you wish them to be smarter, read them more fairy tales.
When can you start the reading habit?
It’s never too early to start reading. The good news is that you can start even before kids are born. Read to kids while they are in the womb, and while they may not know that you are reading from a book, they will get inflection, tone, the rhythm of your voice and recognize it later. The bonus is that they will know your voice even on the outside of the womb and find it soothing and respond to it.
There are books that you can read at every stage and age from babies and toddlers to preschoolers and more. Just get the right books, and not only will you be able to engage with your child in a lovely activity that will give you both pleasure, but you will also teach curiosity and eventually the treading habit in them.
How do you start reading to kids?
Brush the dust off your reading and books: Many of us fall into the rut and forget to enjoy the simple pleasures of life in the rat race. Parenting is a good excuse to examine your old hobbies and brush up on new ones too. So start reading and researching appropriate books to read to the baby. There are many sites the provide information on the right books along with how you can procure them.
Read to the bump: Yes, we mean the baby bump, the bun in the oven. Now that you have brushed off that dust off reading read to the baby yet to be born. They may not know much, but they will see once they are here, and you continue the practice, that this is a special part of the routine. You can use reading to soothe, calm, and create a special time with the baby later.
The cooing crawly thing: Babies make sounds. Parents can talk and read. Again, while very little babies may not know exactly what a book is, they will observe and understand that it is a part of their routine that they enjoy. At times, you will notice that some books are more preferred than others. Often when we read to babies, we read the same books, and they will make their preferences known. Use your voice to make the book interesting with sounds and tone that gives them a different experience from the regular talk.
Remember, they cannot argue with you or be the terrible twos yet. So make the most of it and read as much as you can while you have an audience that can go only as far as they can crawl. Believe us; reading will hold them in place and make their minds grow at a pace much faster than a crawl.
Try and do it as a part of the routine so that you do not leave it to chance, but also understand that reading is an anytime activity. Rainy day or a sudden holiday? It’s a perfect time to read. Read at breakfast, read after lunch. The bedtime story? Well, it's perfect at reading time or bedtime.
Rules to read by.
The only rule is that there are no real rules. Well, you both must enjoy your time together, hopefully, get some great memories too.
Anything will do. That manual you got with your microwave or that bank statement that makes you not so happy. It is the sound of your voice that matters. Research shows how the number of words directed at the baby has a direct impact on their development and literacy, but putting on the TV does not count. It has to be directed in person to the baby /toddler.
Enjoy yourself: Stories you loved as a child, those that you have great memories of, laughed to, and cried with – Just reread them to your child. You enjoyed them and they will too, as you read to them. It is not just about the printed word but about the emotions and feelings that are in the mix that makes a difference.
Senses and sensibilities: The sense of sound and voice is primary while reading to kids, but what about touch, sight, and smell? These days you get books that have scents built into them, but you do not even need that. Have you seen readers handle books lovingly? Well, they are learning about the feel, texture, and smell of the book so they can lock away that memory in their minds forever.
Engage with the audience: Babies may appear to be not listening. They may seem to have the shortest attention spans ever.. But do not let that fool you. They are sponges, taking in every last bit of what you and the world have to offer them. So make eye contact, be expressive.
Talk them through: Ever notice how baby books have a lot of sounds - Animal sounds, nature sounds, sounds of vehicles, etc.? They are easier to mimic, and hence your baby can respond and ‘talk’ back to you. (The talk back at your stage is mainly in the teenage years - this is the good talking back to that encourages speech and literacy)
Respect your child’s preferences. You might have loved all the animal stories while your child may prefer the little green tractor. Yes, children take a lot of their cues from parents, but they are individuals in their own right. Encourage children to express what they like about their books and find more books like that are to their taste.
Make it better: Tweak the text when you’re reading out loud. Tweak to make them work for you and your family. Many classic children’s books are now considered sexist, racist, outdated and, inappropriate in some ways so that you could tweak those too.
Make it pleasant: Your child loves you tickling them and sending them into peals of laughter, do it. They dislike being spoken to in a silly voice, don’t do it. The attempt is to make good memories and not creative we get.
Let them set the pace: Literally, too. Let them turn the pages of the book no matter how much you are itching to show them the next page. They are internalizing the book, learning about it, and maybe letting their imagination soar. It also helps fine motor skill development as they turn pages.
Make space for interruptions: Curiosity is a good thing, and you must feed it by answering as many questions as you can. So make spaces in your reading for questions, comments, and interruptions. It is a great sign.
Diversity is the key: Tails from Tamil Nadu can go with stories from Kenya or Australia. It helps kids make sense of the world around them. They do not see homogeneity, and when they see it reflected in books around them, they can also relate to it better. The world is a diverse place, and there is so much to learn from every corner. Reading diverse books will help children cope better with diversity in the real world. Race, color, ethnic origin, language, food, festivals, and many other items of daily life where we all differ so much and yet are united by as well.
It is impossible to overestimate the importance of reading in a child’s intellectual, social, emotional, mental development. They drink in all that you can read when they are young, and it also encourages them to read by themselves — the patterns, routines, and attentive habits that are set when young lasts a lifetime. If you truly wish to help children grow into readers and gain all they can from books and reading, you have to start young and ensure that you persist. All kids are not alike, and some will learn to read quicker than others, some will be late bloomers while yet others will grow in spurts. Keep reading and encourage them to read as well so that the world of words is theirs to explore.