Teaching kids the joyful art of reading

growing minds Reading is dreaming with open eyes. Allow your child to enjoy this beautiful experience by providing them with essential reading skills

Teaching kids the joyful art of reading

There is a general complaint that our children are slowly losing interest in reading. Influence of TV is considered as a major contributor to this alarming trend. Parents groan that they were avid readers in their young days but their children despise the activity currently. They lament on their helplessness to do anything in this regard. But fret not! It turns out that you can actually do a lot to mend the situation.

First and foremost thing to remember is that children learn by example. So, start by becoming good role models in the house. Reading as a habit, doesn’t necessarily have to wait till the children join the school. You can imbed the love for books in them even before they learn their ABC’s. Start reading stories to them before bedtime. This helps hone their listening skills and also their interest for books. Buy books as gifts for birthdays and other such special occasions.

Many don’t realise that schools play a vital role in developing the reading habit among students. A good library can be a place of great attraction for the little ones. Instead of a place for dumping books, the library can be transformed into a wonderful reading nook. A host of activities such as book reviews, book talks and meet the author programmes can give a boost to the habit of reading. Visits to book exhibitions, forming book clubs with interesting activities planned can enthuse the young readers.

Language teachers also play a crucial role in developing the interest in reading. One thing everyone needs to know is that reading skills cannot be taught in isolation. The skill has to be taken up with other skills such as listening, speaking and writing. There can be many hindrances coming in the way. Inadequate vocabulary and lack of mastery of basic sentence structures would cause poor reading speed. Students can be taught to guess contextual meaning of new words. They would be surprised to know that they can make intelligent guesses and they would be right most of the times. With graded tasks, they climb the ladder of difficulty and slowly master the skill.

Things to do
Reading is an important skill that has to be developed through a set of carefully thought out activities. One has to pay attention to the details which make reading effective. It is an activity that our learners should enjoy involve in. This is a skill which leads to comprehension and thereafter acquiring vocabulary, sentence structures, and a whole repertoire of the writing and speaking skills. Here are some guidelines to help you bring in the love for reading in the young minds:

Relate the topic to daily life: Students will be interested to read if the passage is related to their day-to-day life. For example, a topic such as newspaper may be much more interesting than igloo. Anything within their range of experience seems easy for them. On the other hand, if the topic is obscure and unfamiliar, the going gets tough.

 React to the reading: Before they read as well as during the process of reading, a variety of questions can be put to facilitate the process. A whole class discussion can be carried out after the first reading so that the second reading can be fruitful. Do they get a newspaper at home? Which section do they like most? Who amongst the family members spends most time with the newspaper? And so on.

Sustain the interest: Students should be encouraged to know more. Also, encourage them to speak up. Some students can share some information which is related to the topic but not found in the passage. The teacher too can add his version of the story with relevant details. Glossing difficult words and simplifying the difficult expressions would help.

Aid the comprehension: Though, eventually we have to test our learners’ comprehension, in the beginning the comprehension should be aided with graded tasks and a lot of clues. Our readers have got to enjoy reading. Therefore, the purpose of reading is not to answer some questions. In the initial stages, reading can be for the sake of reading alone and not to take a test of ones’ abilities.

Give a reason for reading: In real life, we read either for information or pleasure. Therefore in the classroom too, the reading sessions have to be with the same idealogy. The purpose of reading may be made clear at the beginning of the session so that our readers are ready for the task. Humour always scores higher while reading for pleasure, though we have to ready the learners for literary appreciation slowly. While reading for information, the students have to develop the skills for looking at specific details, pros and cons, cause and effects and so on.

Link reading to a speaking activity: The skills of listening, speaking, reading and writing have to run simultaneously  for efficient learning of the language. None of these skills can be or rather should be taught in isolation. Hence, the reading activity has to be linked to some kind of suitable speaking activity. A role play based on a newspaper item would eminently suit our purpose. Little readers would love to do something of this kind.

Shift the focus on the kids: As we all know, teacher is a facilitator rather than a centre stage performer in the teaching -learning process. The teacher talk time has to be as minimal as possible compared to the student talk time. The teacher has to meticulously design the activities, give a start and then take a back seat to allow the students to do the participatory peer learning. What we would ensure is that all the learners would get equal opportunities to take part in the activities.

Link reading to writing: As mentioned earlier, the skills of the language are taught in an integrated fashion. A writing activity followed by the reading task would help in better learning. A newspaper report or a letter to editor can be tried out. A whole class discussion can precede the writing activity. The writing task can be charted out in clear terms and the students can then read each other’s work.

In all, a multi-pronged approach can be employed to inculcate the habit of reading in the young minds.

(The author is a retired assistant commissioner, Kendriya Vidyalaya Sangathan)

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