Give Your Child the Reading Habit: 5 Ways

When the talk veers around to what children enjoy doing, I will invariably say, “My daughter enjoys reading – and that is putting it mildly.”

Almost immediately, the person I’m speaking with responds in one of 2 ways:

  1. “Reading is a wonderful habit! She will grow up well.” Typically, this will be followed by the parent’s lament that his/her own child doesn’t read at all. 🙂
  2. “My child enjoys books too.” And there follows a discussion of the books our children are reading, if they are in the same age group.

What is so great about reading anyway?

There are many benefits to reading, but here are 3 practical reasons you might want your child to read more:

  1. Your child communicates better – Your child’s large vocabulary allows him to express himself clearly. He can understand the nuances of what he hears and reads and respond more aptly than he otherwise would.
  2. Reading enriches the mind – Your child is introduced to new ideas, new cultures, new ways of living, all of which give her experience beyond her years. She learns – not just information, but also life lessons.
  3. Your child achieves more – Reading is the magnet that attracts success. In the ideas-technology-information age of the 21st century, there are no ivory towers. Your child needs to be plugged in to what is going on in the world for him to be an achiever. Reading is the easiest, most accessible, least cost, quickest way of accessing ideas and information.

“Not all readers are leaders, but all leaders are readers.” Harry S. Truman

How can you give your child the reading habit?

  1. Read yourself – This is the single most-important thing you can do. It doesn’t matter whether you read in print or on the computer. Read anything – the newspaper, magazines, literary novels, comics, scientific journals, financial reports, bestsellers or whatever else takes your fancy. If your child sees you reading (don’t call it work, please), she will be more likely to read.
  2. Read to your child – Most children love being read to when they are young. As they grow up and begin to read themselves, parents abandon the ‘reading aloud’. After all, the child can read himself! But reading oneself is hard work, and often, the child gives up. Please keep reading aloud to him even after he can read simple books on his own. His understanding of language at this stage is far greater than his ability to read, so if you continue reading aloud to him, he can enjoy books that he is intellectually and emotionally ready for, but isn’t able to ‘read’ yet.
  3. Let her choose – You believe that your 6-year old should read fairy tales. Maybe she would rather read about how clouds are formed, or money is printed (in age-appropriate books, of course.) Let your child choose the books she wants to read. Even if they are comics. (I was brought up to believe that comics are not ‘real’ books. As a result, the first comic I ever touched was after age 11! 🙂 For those who are curious, the comics I first read were Amar Chitra Kathas which made Indian mythology and history accessible to children. No, not even Phantom or Archie comics happened before then.)
  4. Read the books he is reading – Children love talking about what they are doing (at least, till they find their parents aren’t listening). If you read the book your child has read himself, you can talk to him about the book. You might talk about his (and your) favorite character or scene, what he (and you) liked / disliked about it, a sentence / picture he enjoyed and why, what he would have done differently if he were the author – anything at all. This fuels his interest in reading, because it gives him an additional way to connect with you, his parent! 🙂 A win-win situation, isn’t it? 🙂
  5. Treat reading as a ‘treat’ – Use books as a reward. Not just because she achieved some landmark. Be more creative. Rewards can include reading aloud to her – even if she’s a teenager. (Being read to even after your child can read has its own special pleasure, one very few children experience, alas! But I urge you to try it. Pick a book you know your child will enjoy, but is resisting reading herself, and begin reading to her. Write me a note to tell me what happened. 🙂 ) Another wonderful reward is to take your child to book-reading sessions. Most cities have such events at libraries, cultural centres, clubs and malls. If you can’t find any in the vicinity, get a bunch of kids together, and organize a book-reading yourself. When you treat reading as a ‘treat’, you make it a desirable, glamorous activity, rather than buying into the stereotype of the nerd buried in a pile of dusty tomes. And everyone is drawn to glamour – even your child. (Or maybe that should be “especially your child”? 🙂 )

Reading is a pleasure that lasts through life. It is a friend, an indulgence, a solace, an escape, a thrill, a journey – or more accurately, many journeys…

For those of you who are readers, you know what reading has given you. And you are eager to introduce your children to that pleasure – and share it with with them.

For those who are not (but you’re reading this! 🙂 ), you know you’re missing something. And you want to make sure your children don’t miss out too…

 “There are many little ways to enlarge your child’s world. Love of books is the best of all.”

Jacqueline Kennedy

Happy reading! Bon appetit! 🙂

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6 Responses to Give Your Child the Reading Habit: 5 Ways

  1. Richabhagat March 30, 2014 at 6:28 am #

    Very useful

    • Vinita Zutshi March 30, 2014 at 7:39 am #

      Richa, I’d love to know which ones work best for you!

      • Gene Edwards May 1, 2014 at 6:20 pm #

        Reading has many benefits and a book can serve more than one useful purpose at the same time. It is a form of relaxation while at the same time it can stimulate your mind, reading can help you to feel better, books can be our teachers, mentors and inspirations .You can learn and better your life just by reading a book, authors and good writers can take you to places and imaginary worlds where no other form of entertainment or technology can rival.

        • Vinita Zutshi May 1, 2014 at 8:14 pm #

          You said it, Gene! 🙂

  2. bharati June 2, 2014 at 7:34 pm #

    can u please explain what you meant by collecting a bunch of kids together and organizing a book-reading? what do u actually do in it?? read out loud to everyone or let kids choose what to read n thats reading time together??

    • Vinita Zutshi June 2, 2014 at 10:02 pm #

      A book reading can be organised in many ways, Bharati.

      You could collect a few books on topics of interest to the children. (Remember to ask – we don’t always know what our children like. I was shocked when a bunch of Class 4 children preferred stories on Indian mythology to stories about bandits.) If the book is short, you can read the entire story to the children. Let the reading be interactive, asking them, for instance, “And what do you think the clever thief did then?”

      If you pick a longer story, make sure you’ve read it fully, and mark the interesting bits to read out loud to the children. They can then guess what happens at the end before you share it. Reading aloud to a group is a winning strategy for all age groups – even adults! 🙂

      Another great way is to let each child bring a story book, and read their favourite part of the story from it. This can be tricky because children don’t necessarily read aloud in an engaging manner, and other children are likely to get bored. Also, the reading may be so halting that children don’t understand what is being read. Typically, this works better with older children who have some proficiency in reading.

      Good luck! And feel free to contact me for a story-telling session. 🙂

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