Few activities can help children’s minds develop as fully as reading can. Books invite kids into unknown, unexplored, fantastical worlds, allowing children to lose themselves inside their worlds and the lives of the characters who inhabit those worlds. While such reading is a thoroughly enjoyable pastime, it also develops children’s comprehension skills, their reading skills and their critical thinking abilities.
Whether a book is a fantasy, a thriller, or an adventure book, it is aimed at teaching kids about values of family, community, and principles of love, hard work, and loyalty. Books expose children to different cultures and peoples, they let their young minds explore new ideas and viewpoints, and so help make children more humane, compassionate, open-minded, accepting of others, and creative.
It is no doubt then that most parents want their young ones to develop a habit of reading from an early age. The best way to accomplish this task is to make reading a family activity, so kids not only take up reading, but they also grow close to their families while they are at it. Below, we will explore some ways in which you, as a family, can adopt the habit of reading books.
1. Read a bedtime story to young kids
The best way to develop kids’ interest in reading is to start when they are very young. Little kids love listening to stories, and they love spending time with their parents. You can combine these two activities by setting up a time for storytelling before bedtime every night. After kids have brushed their teeth, changed into their pyjamas and climbed under their covers, tell them a story every night. Allocate a fixed time for bedtime stories according to your schedule. Generally, 20 to 30 minutes is suitable.
For little kids, you can start by making up your own stories (or even encouraging the kids to make up stories some nights!) and then slowly moving to read aloud books. As kids will grow up, so will their love for stories, and they will want to pick up a book and read on their own because 20 minutes a day just won’t be enough for them anymore!
2. Have a family reading time
As kids grow up, storytelling at bedtime can be replaced by studying/reading hours during the day. You can set up a time when all family members would gather in the living room and read, either on their own or together. Moreover, children should be encouraged to read anything – like magazines and newspapers. If your kid doesn’t feel like reading during this time, encourage them to entertain themselves with other fruitful activities like arts and crafts, word games, etc. The goal is to make the child do something which they enjoy as well as benefit from. If kids start to feel that reading is being imposed on them, they will rebel against the very idea of reading.
3. Discuss books on the dining-table
This one is perfect for bringing the family together while learning at the same time. Families usually have one meal during the day when everyone eats together at the dining table. Use this opportunity, whether at breakfast or dinner, to discuss whatever you are reading with everyone. For example, someone could share an exciting piece of information they came across in a book, or an exceptionally well-developed character, or some interesting development that took place in the plot of a book.
Kids can ask questions about concepts they are struggling to understand, which can lead to fruitful discussions. Eventually, your kids will start looking forward to these discussions and will want to contribute to the talks daily.
4. Ask children questions about their favorite books and characters
Another helpful thing that you as a parent can do to encourage reading in your home is to become very involved with the reading process of your child. That means that you ask them questions about what they are reading, how they like the plot, what characters they like or do not like, and how do they interpret certain themes of the book. These questions can be asked while driving the kids to school or at any time during the day.
However, you will either have to read the books they are reading yourself, or you will need to try to understand and remember the plot from what your kid tells you. This is because kids can easily pick up when grownups are not interested in something and are just pretending to know it. When your kids feel you are genuinely interested in what they are reading, they are more likely to take reading seriously.
5. Let your child choose the books they will read
Before you are horrified by the very idea of children coming across inappropriate books, let us explain what we mean. Kids are more likely to enjoy and take an interest in reading if they get to choose what they will read. Some kids like fantasy books, while others prefer adventure and thrillers. Yet some other kids enjoy science fiction.
You can choose a variety of books for children which you think are suitable for their level, and then tell your kids to pick the one they like. This way, kids will feel they have a say in what they are reading, but it still would have been you who chose the books initially. Secondly, after you know which genre of books your child enjoys most, such as fantasy, adventure, mystery, etc., you can get them more of those books, so they continue reading.
6. Lead by example
While this is an obvious one, we still felt the need to say it. Kids are most likely to take up reading if they see their parents reading regularly. You cannot expect your child to read books while you watch the television or scroll through your mobile during your free time every day. Watching parents read and collect books naturally influences most young children to read. More than anything, they will want to get their hands on those books on your top-most shelf!
7. Limit screen time
Limiting screen time is not recommended just to get your kids to read, work, or study; it is actually necessary, so your kids can have a normal childhood. Today, there are too many options, or in other words, distractions, available to kids. From television to tablets to PlayStation, kids face temptation from many things.
If you want your child to grow up healthy, it is essential to give them restricted access to digital devices. You are not supposed to force them to read in their free hours; they will hate reading if they think this is the reason they are not allowed to use their laptops. You can encourage them to play, draw, cook or do anything they like in their free time. But having free time on their hands, they will themselves want to pick up a book and get lost in a fictional world.
Whether kids fall in love with reading or not will ultimately depend on their interests, personalities, and temperaments. However, as parents, you can do what is in your power, and that is to create an environment conducive to reading at home. The suggestions given above will help you create that environment at home.