- And it is almost incumbent upon us, as parents, to expose our children to multi-ethnic, diverse and socially relevant reading material.
My father is a voracious reader — every book in our home library carefully covered neatly, signed with the year and the place it was bought along with the serial number indubitably marked on the first page and read cover to cover. It is probably this reverence that he shows for his books that taught us how precious a habit reading is.
And as a mother of two very rapidly growing kids, I am aware of the responsibility that I, as a parent have in helping my kids inculcate this habit. Let’s face it, not everyone likes to read and sometimes kids need that little nudge, that slight push of encouragement.
Why is reading so important?
Children today have busier, more challenging lives and the weight of school, homework, the never ending extra curriculars, sports and social life can be stressful. Reading can help alleviate that strain. Nothing is more relaxing than an elusive escape from reality, is there?
A 2009 study by the University of Sussex, in fact, found reading can reduce stress by 68% — that’s more than listening to music or even having that celebrated cup of tea.
Reading, also, not only enhances vocabulary, the need for which in a world full of slangs and abbreviations seems rather compelling, but also increases focus and enhances analytical and imaginative thinking. Of course, improved knowledge is a definitive by-product.
A study of K-12 student reading habits in ‘What Kids are Reading’ by Renaissance, a learning analytics company found that just six extra minutes of reading per day can turn a struggling reader into one that surpasses their grade average and those who read 15 minutes or more per day make accelerated reading gains.
However, merely asking children to ‘go read’ has never worked for me. It only encourages noncompliance and a dislike for the activity. When have children liked what they were ‘told’ to do anyway?
Here are some ways I have found useful in encouraging my kids to read:
Be the example they can emulate: Read to them, read with them. We need to be the motivation ourselves that makes the exercise worth the effort for them.
My favorite part of the day where my kids and I snuggle up at bedtime, books in hand, punctuated by intermittent bouts of laughter not only gives us a more intimate time together as a family but it’s surprising how much they open up for conversation. It’s more rewarding than learning a few new words.
Create a cozy reading area for your child if they like that. Older siblings reading to the younger ones, sometimes even a convivial vice-versa makes it more fun!
Talk about what they read: Discussing makes the text more coherent and intelligible to your child and they learn to read between the lines too. Make it fun by trying to draw corelations between the book and their real life. Talking about what they read helps improve articulation and communicative deftness too. And the bond that you make with your child is priceless.
Let them read what they want to: As parents, and I am as guilty of this imposition as any other — we often tell our children what they ‘ought to’ read. Big mistake. Forcing them to pick up something that they have no interest in but is seemingly necessary only makes it a bigger ordeal for them than what it already may be. Guide them on what their level should be, but please don’t compel them to sit with it.
Remember, they are not you: Don’t expect them to be a clone of what you were at their age. More importantly, don’t compare them with their friends or yours. They are not vessels of your own gratification. Let this one activity be for leisure and for enabling their own creative expression.
Visit the library often and expose them to a wide plethora of reading material, be it children’s magazine, fiction, non-fiction or even comics. Picking up what they want to read themselves and seeing other children can be quite exhilarating.
With the pandemic literally forcing increased digital reading, the charms of a physical book have only become more apparent. I may sound old school, but nothing is more engaging than the sound of the rustle of the turn of a page or the musty smell of an old book that many held before me.
Expose kids to books with diversity: In the present world context, it is almost incumbent upon us, as parents, to expose our children to multi-ethnic, diverse and socially relevant reading material, emboldening individualistic spirit and sensitizing and educating our future generation. Rome wasn’t built in a day.
As I finish writing this, I see my 7-year-old daughter cooped up comfortably in her bed, with her favorite book “The Rebel Girls — 100 Immigrant Women who Changed the World” in hand waiting for me to join in. While I discuss all the strong women she learns about today with her, do let me know if you, dear reader, have more ideas on how to encourage our kids to read more.
Nupur Bhatnagar is a lawyer by training, an entrepreneur and a storyteller. She is rationalist and an art enthusiast who is fascinated by history. She loves to read and watch historical dramas — sometimes even sees herself in them. Nupur lives in New Jersey with her husband and two children.