How to make books your child's best friend
Making books a part of life!
Reading starts in the baby crib!
As a child bedtime was my favorite time of the day. A time when my parents would lovingly tuck me into bed and daddy would have a new story to tell each night. Stories that took me into this imaginary world full of surprises, adventures and beautiful creatures and I felt I could be just like them...only if I made a wish!
It all started when my Mom was seriously unwell and was admitted in the hospital. I was barely two or three years old. So every evening after we left the hospital, dad and I went straight to the market. We walked down the street eating an ice-cream, picking up a balloon and last but not the least, purchasing a fairy tale book. Every night dad would read the book, show me the pictures describing each character and the story. Then I would go through each page, looking at the pictures and repeating the story as I turned each page.
I am told that as a toddler, when people visited us and saw me flipping pages and narrating the story they actually believed I could read. I wish I could have said back then "fooled you!"
But that was my first exposure to books. I had found my life-long companion, in fact a kind which seemed to entertain me in a new way each day, had new shapes, new colors and new characters!
Now when our little one came along, I wondered how I was going to make her love books. My parents had lovingly stowed away my childhood fairy tales, Enid Blytons and other classics for their grandchild. Just like all of you, in this tech savvy world where children our addicted to gadgets, we too wanted our child to read the old fashioned way.
That's when our Aunt shared her little secret. "Place some books in the baby's crib!". We wondered what will she do with books? Won't she love some soft toys or some musical trinkets instead? But I am so glad when I look back now, that we did listen to her advice, and started by placing some colorful board books and those cloth books, next to her when she slept in her baby cot.
We loved watching her get up in the morning, turn over and grab the book and playfully turn pages, gape at the colorful pictures, touch those pages with her tiny fingers, lick some pages, smell some characters. She was trying to figure it all out on her own. Then we started reading the same book to her at bedtime, and leaving it by her side as she slept, so she could go back to it as soon as she woke up. We had done it! She loved this new toy, which she knew we kept calling a "BOOK"
Spend quality time- Read with your kids!
Lead by example!
You want your children to read, you must read to them, for them and with them. Children love imitating adults. Notice how your child will walk around with a mobile phone to their ear, chattering gibberish...they are just trying to be like their busy Mom and Dad. So when you pick up your book or newspaper and sit down to read, it makes them feel important. So whether its bedtime, or when you travelling or just sitting on a beach, grab a book and they will too.
Most of the time when you go shopping, kids always want to buy something for themselves too. When you visit a book shop lead them to the kids section and let them take a pick. Give them a subtle message that that if they ask for chocolates or junk food you might think twice, but if they ask for a book you would never refuse.
Also show them how books remain with them forever. Have a book shelf at home where you give them a corner to showcase their collection along with yours. When you visit your family home or friends, show them old books in the shelves. Unlike candy which gets eaten, toys which get broken, clothes which they grow out of, a book will stay with them for many many years.
Join a Library or a Book Club
A library or a book club close to home can be a great family weekend activity. A library is not just a place to get books, but could also be a hub for other hobbies and to make new friends and improve their social skills.
Give them an opportunity to feel independent, where they carry their library card and books and exchange it at the counter. Another advantage is the library stacks books according to age, so you feel free to let them take a pick.
Make story telling more animated and interesting. Some libraries also host storytelling sessions by renowned professional story tellers. You could also start a book exchange club with your child's friends and your neighbors.
If you feel your child is a voracious reader now, a library definitely helps you stay in your budget and saves you space at home as well. You want to elevate your child's reading level, make appropriate suggestions and monitor what they are reading.
I sometimes even read the same old books with her, like the Enid Blyton classics or the mystery stories like Nancy Drew and Hardy Boys. She loves to compete with me see who finishes the book first and then we discuss the characters and share a laugh or two.
We all want them to read so that they improve their language skills and vocabulary. However, I also see it as an opportunity to bond and spend some quality time with my child. We have midnight feasts with hot cocoa and if I lose something I have my in-house little detective looking for clues to my missing earring. Its hilarious to watch!
Don't push the button!
We do want our kids to read, but don't make it all about books. The more we try to push this habit, the more likely they are to shy away from it!
We all have our own talents and interests, so just because your child does not read, does not make them inferior. Get over it! They probably like to play, paint, draw, cycle, skate, sing, play an instrument and do much more. Children have high energy levels and they need to burn it all out in positive activities. So let them be!
Introduce books on topics that might interest them and at a time where they are calmer and more open to sitting in one place and interacting with you. Maybe they enjoy cricket, so read about the latest cricket news and discuss as a family. Indulge in all kinds of activities that they enjoy, could be a sport or a board game.
Reading is great habit as well as a wonderful hobby. But don't force it upon your child. Some of us take to books much later in life and some of us stick to our school and professional books. If you provide them a nurturing environment of books, they will come back to it someday....till then Happy Reading!
To sum it all up!
- Catch them young! Introduce them to books when they are babies.
- Lead by example- have an environment where they see and have books around them and see you reading as well.
- Join a Library- give them a constant supply of books to make it a habit. Allow them to choose but monitor and ensure it is age appropriate.
- Make it fun- Reading must be an enjoyable activity for them. Never force books. Its not the end of the world if they choose not to read.
© 2017 Snehal Sarkar