How to motivate your child to read

Rimli Bhattacharya

Shilpa and Shekhar were just back from the United States. They had been abroad for 15 years where Shilpa had worked as a school teacher. The couple were initially very skeptic on how their 11 year old son Rahul would adjust in India. But Rahul proved to be very adjusting with the Indian ways, his school mates and also his neighbors.  Though things seemed hunky dory Shilpa grumbled about the lack of a public library for children here in the city.She said back in the US it was mandatory that each parent read stories to the child for at least half an hour a day. Rahul even had a membership with a local library club and that he loved to read. Reading is important for overall development and I couldn’t agree more with her.

But mind you all children are not Rahul and also we do not have a public library exclusively for them either. While taking away a book from the hands of a voracious reader can be hard, on the other hand inculcatingin a reluctant child the habit of reading a book might look difficult, and sometimes impossible. I loved to read and I had developed this habit right in my childhood from my mother. I needed no nudge. Reading came to me naturally.

Motivated children will actively seek out for books to enjoy and are very happy reading the same quietly by themselves. Motivation is the key to become a successful reader. So naturally when a child is fueled by inspiration s/he will read frequently, and gradually propelling themselves as successful readers. S/he learns well and it is the reading which will prove beneficial for his/her overall development.

There are exceptions. As I said earlier some children loathe reading, especially the ones who are grappling. To a certain extent coaxing and convincing the child to read might work but as a parent I say one needs to first identify the reason for this reluctance. Once we know the causeit becomes easier for a parent to motivate the child to read.

Does your reluctant child fit in any of these two categories?

  1. Reading is difficult – Do we adults choose a hard work as a leisure activity? Of course not. The same is applicable in case of the child. The one who has to work on reading will never find reading to be a fun or leisure activity. S/he might have issues with fluency, or might have gaps in his/her phonogram expertise. Look for signs if the child is struggling with words or hasn’t developed strong vocabulary skills. So that calls for enormous working on improving reading and the child will never be ready for that. Address the areas of weaknesses. The better s/he gets the more s/he will enjoy. Also remember improving reading requires lot of patience unlike watching television or playing video games. Make sure you cut down on your child’s screen time. Parenting is not that easy.

 

  1. Reading is tedious – It might happen that your child doesn’t find reading hard but finds no charm in it either. Look out for the reading material which motivates them. Does your daughter love dancing? Does your son love gardening? Do they have any hobbies? Once you get to know their areas of interest gift them books accordingly. Here you are inspiring your child to read and which in turn will increase their enthusiasm for reading books.

As a parent here are some pointers of mine on how to motivate a child to get into the habit of reading.

Tip # 1:Read yourself – Your child sees you as a mentor and that is how they learn. Set good examples by reading yourself and you will find your child doing the same. If your child is settled with a few books make sure that you too grab a book or magazine yourself and provide a company to your child. Avoid checking your phone and scrolling social media sites (it is difficult in today’s world but not impossible) but rediscover the fun in reading rather than wasting time on gadgets and social media. The child is bound to learn the importance of reading.

Tip # 2: Practice reading from day one – Children love routine and once you program them into reading from day one you will find that they have turned into a book worm. This is applicable for babies as well as there is no such thing as starting too early.All babies respond to the lull rhythm of a voice reading aloud. Make reading a part of your daily routine and your child will grow up looking forward to it.

Tip # 3:Surround your child with reading material – With increased collection of reading resources the child is bound to perform better on standardized tests. Evoke the reading habit by having a vast collection of interesting books, comics and magazines of his/her reading level. Just as Shilpa complained that we have no public library for the children why not turn your home into a small library?

Tip # 4: Time you consider reading an activity – In this competitive era the child is often shoved between studies and extracurricular activities. Reading might seem like an unwelcome drudgery. See to it that you consider reading a part of your daily activity and set a scheduled time for it. If nothing, then bed time readings are welcome.

Tip # 5:Create a cozy reading nook – It’s not necessary that you revamp your house with lot of bookshelves. Children only need a cozy space to read. It can be the couch or chair in the room where your child sleeps. Pick a comfortable spot that has enough light and space to keep books which will help your child in connecting reading with comfort and coziness. And yes the complains will be less and you will be a happy parent.

Tip # 6: Let the child decide what to read – Do not limit your choice of books only with one genre. Children love fiction, comics, picture books, graphic novels and children’s magazine. Let the child decide what s/he wants to read.

Tip # 7: The sibling game – Do indulge your reluctant reader to read a picture book to the younger sibling. Not only the child will have reading practice but will also consider reading as fun.

Tip # 8: Buddy reading – Also known as paired reading or partnered reading it improves the child’s fluency and makes reading an enjoyable activity for him/her.

Tip # 9: The humor magic – Do settle down with a funny book with your reluctant child and read out a humorous chapter. Read only the first chapter and then stop. The child needs to read himself/herself to find out what happens next.

Tip # 10: Reread the favorite books – Yes it is indeed a tiring task for an adult to re read the same story again and again. But it has been my experience that this is also one of the ways how children learn to read themselves. They love pointing out your errors, spot missing words and lot more. And before you know it, the child will read the story back to you! Rewarding isn’t it?

You must be wondering that I started the narration with Shilpa and Shekhar’s son Rahul. And then I mentioned about libraries and books. I also mentioned that both I and Rahul loved to read. Then where did I get these pointers and why did I discuss them? Just so you know, it’s my eleven year old daughter on whom I had to conduct these experiments, though not all so that she develops interest in reading rather than watching television and playing video games. To certain extent I am to be blamed. Being a single mother I was involved in too many activities that reading out to my daughter took a back seat.

Albert Einstein had once said that if you want your children to be intelligent, read them fairy tales. If you want them to be more intelligent, read them more fairy tales. Though not fairy tales but I am glad that I could at least inspire my daughter into reading books by reading out them myself and following some of the above practices. In case you have better and additional tips to motivate little readers please do let me know. This is a genuine request from a mother to all the readers reading this essay.

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