One page at a time

One page at a time

“We hear about the importance of learning to read more often than we hear of the importance of getting excited about reading,” says Dr Simpson. Dr Simpson is the author of the book, Reading under the covers: Helping children choose books. Here are 10 ways of helping kids  to become avid readers:

1. Start early, preferably even before your kid turns one. Books are unlike toys. They should be held upright, opened and pages have to be turned. This means that kids should be able to handle books physically. This is possible when they are 6-7 months old. Aditya got his first book when he was just 6 months young. His mother Jyothi Anand, a homoeopathic doctor who gave up her practice in Mumbai to be a full-time mom, handed him colourful books. She believes that it has helped Aditya graduate faster from baby books to children’s books. Aditya is now six years old and can read on his own.

2. Describe what you see in the book. Encourage the child to hold the book and turn the pages. Nineteen-month-old Vedanth enjoys books with pictures of animals. Vedanth’s mother, Deepa Shankar, a former nursery teacher in Bangalore, introduced Vedanth to the world of books very early. “I used to read the newspaper with him on my lap,” she says, “perhaps, that is why Vedanth took an instant liking to books.”

3. Ask children what they see in the books. Hand over a new book with their favourite animals or characters and ask them if they see some action. Movina Singh, a kindergarten teacher in a leading public school in Dubai, speaks of the need for picture conversation with children. Her school runs a special programme for children to become good readers. “Pictures fascinate children,” she says. “Pictures also help the child put thoughts into sentences.”

4. Find books with lots of pictures, and follow this up with one or two words that are repeated in the pictorial story. Children learn to recognise words because they have the amazing ability to match patterns. “Kids should be encouraged to use ‘sight words’ because, in the next reading stage, they can be taught to read some of these words by merely looking at them,” she says.

5. Children have to know that book-reading can be fun. Teach children that reading is like playing, then they will enjoy spending time with books. Michael Morpurgo, who has written more than 100 books for kids, says, “We get ourselves all hot and bothered about the teaching of reading, about synthetic phonics and the like, and we forget that none of it is much use unless children want to read in the first place.”

6. Bedtime stories are a must. You can start by narrating the story after reading it aloud. Soon, you will be asked to “only read”.

7. Practise what you preach. If you read books yourself, the child will also try to emulate you. I remember my parents reading many magazines before going to bed and I started doing the same. Even to this day, ‘bedtime stories’ is a habit that is hard to beat.

8. Explain what you are reading to your child. When I was reading Barack Obama’s The Audacity of Hope, my five-year-old asked me what the book was about. You can summarise the story or the news report you are reading to pique the child’s interest in the world around him.

9. Encourage your child to read posters/banners while travelling. It should not appear that you are testing the child. Make up games that will make him read.

10. Never spell/read difficult words for the child. Ask him to try it out on his own. If he reads it differently, say he did a great job; it’s just that the words sound different.
Kids can become avid readers. They need some direction to understand that it’s fun to read.

As Michael Morpurgo puts it, “The motivation must come first...horse before cart. We all know that unless a child is motivated to learn, there will be apathy or resistance in the learning process. They are much more likely to want to deal with the difficulties of learning to read if they know it is these words that give them access to all these wonderful stories. If we really want our children to become readers for life, we would do well to remember that horses are much more fun than carts anyway.”

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