Eight ways to get your children interested in reading

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In this age, where there are multiple distractions to keep children away from books (we aren’t talking about school books), the biggest challenge for parents is to develop reading habits among their wards. Reading helps us broaden our horizon, understand different cultures and improve our vocabulary. Experts also believe that it improves the overall performance of children at school as well. Books, be it in physical form or in audio version, are a great way to stir children’s imagination and creativity. And most of all, children, like all of us, need time to be still, to focus their mind, to leave behind all the myriad distractions; and reading is a wonderful way to do this.

But how do we get children interested in books in today’s tech-savvy world? Below are eight ways which will help you shape your ward’s reading habits:

1. Lead by example

Parents are the biggest role model for their children. Hence, it is no surprise that children emulate their parents the most. “When we talk about reading, be it from tabs or from books, the onus lies on parents to get them into reading. If parents read, children will start reading,” said author Sharat Kumar, adding, “Parents need to appreciate the books and discuss the stories in front of children to show them how interesting the reading is. For this, they themselves should take personal interest in reading.”

​2. Don’t force your choice on children, let them read whatever they want

“Often, schools or parents demand a certain kind of book be read, a specific acceptable genre, or a desired level of attainment. Such prescription is not where the pleasure lies. To get children interested in reading, simply follow their interests. If they love fantasy computer games, let them read a fantasy novel. If they’re into animals or science or football – read about that. Read books that are easy as well as the ones that challenge. Read anything that might just click,” advises Sonal Sachdev Patel and Jemma Wayne-Kattan, authors of the children’s book Gita: The Battle of the Worlds.

3. Create neighbourhood book clubs

“Children should be encouraged to create their own neighbourhood book clubs to not only exchange books, but also to meet and talk about the books they have read. Peer reviews are one of the surest ways to get children to read,” recommends Tina Narang, publisher, HarperCollins Children’s book.

4. Take them out to bookstores – do book surfing

“Parents can also take children to bookstores and make browsing an interesting exercise. For instance, asking a child to find 10 books with titles that start with a certain letter will teach him/her how to browse and go through the books on a bookshelf. Younger kids could be engaged in the same activity by asking them to find books with the same visual, for example, books that have a horse on the cover. Once children begin to engage with books in different ways, reading will follow as a natural next step. With younger children, establishing a tactile relationship with books is almost as important as teaching them how to read, so you could ask your child to smell books and see if they all smell different or if there are some that don’t smell great,” suggests Narang.

5. Organise theme-based parties

This can be an extension of book clubs. Once children have finished reading a few books, organise a party wherein they are required to dress up in their favourite character from these novels. This will not only act as a stimulus to read more but also fuel their imagination.

6. Reward your kids 

Again, once they finish reading book(s), reward them by taking them out for a movie or shopping. Or simply organise games or quiz from the book(s) and give them a prize.

7. Infuse creativity into the task when school recommends books 

“Schools give children summer reading lists to encourage them to read during the holidays, but most kids look at these lists as a chore. One way to make this an interesting activity is to ask children to find books that they want to read themselves that are of roughly the same length as the ones on the recommended list. The kids can maintain a chart to see how many such link-ups they are able to make and give themselves a star each time they manage a tie-in. This challenge could branch out in several other ways as well: word length, number of pages, time taken to read both books and so on,” said Narang.

8. Read stories/books aloud to your toddlers

“For children who are exposed to books from a young age, often being read aloud to in bed, this precious time with parents is not something easily usurped by screens. It’s important for that ritual to carry on, even past the age when children can read simpler texts to themselves, because the words and the rhythms and the worlds that can be accessed with the help of parents, open up so much in their minds and their lives,” explain Sonal Sachdev Patel and Jemma Wayne-Kattan.

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