If you ever visit our home, you’ll notice that we have a whole variety of books lying around. On one desk, you might find a mixture of recipe and finance books stacked up; in another corner, you spot MM Lee’s memoirs, The Singapore Lion and Men in White. On yet another (messy!) table, you find a whole pile of educational resources and notes on literacy… yeah, guess whose that is! :P
While we do (occasionally) read each other’s books, we rarely sink our teeth in, much less study them. What’s my point? We read things we’re interested in! So there’s a simple key to getting your child hooked to books: pick topics that interest him. Better yet, let him pick them out himself!
Back to my childhood. When Papa brought us to a bookstore to buy books, he never did choose our books for us. Always, we’d get to pick “our own” book. That also sparked interest in us because we had a sense of ownership (“that’s the book I chose; it’s my book!”).
When I was an iddy biddy little nuthin’ (another way of saying “young”), I was a passionate animal lover. Whenever we went to the library, I would head straight for the “Animals and Pets” section. Usually I’d have an armload of books like “Caring for Your Pet Iguana”, “Dolphins in the Wild”, “Polar Bears” and “Rearing Parrots” to take home. Looking back now, it’s hard to believe that I would actually take time to read those books… I certainly wouldn’t do it now! :D
Of course, Mom had to put down her foot hard when it came to carrying out what I read in the books! But it was good for me. The more I read, the larger my vocabulary grew. And because I came to dislike the childish things written in children’s animal books, I began to look for books in the Adult Section. The interest just grew naturally, and with it, the reading habit.
So why not capitalize on your child’s interest to kick-start the reading habit? Take him to Popular bookstore or your local library and help him find books that interest him. Help him pick out a book: talk about the books, their titles and illustrations, and which ones might be most interesting. At the end of the day, make sure that the book is his choice.
When you get home, read the book together. Make him feel like it was the best choice he ever made. (“Aren’t you glad you chose this one? I really like this story!”) What we’re trying to do here is to give books a pleasant association in his mind. Oh, and please, don’t tell him, “Ok, I bought the book for you, now go and read it. I’m too busy to read to you.” If you are too busy (and that happens, we all know!), ask him to save it for a special time, like just before bed. He’ll look forward to it!
I know I’ve said this before, but I’ll repeat it for emphasis: if you can get him on your side, you both would be working together to help him learn to read. It won’t be you working on him; it would be you working with him. And that always works so much better!
Enjoy your reading journey!
Coming up next: The only reason why I ever got through that book. See you then!