Reading should not be presented to children as a chore, a duty. It should be offered as a gift.” – Charles Scribner, Jr.
Many studies show that the best time to start reading to babies is when they are unborn. At about six months in the womb, babies can listen when they are read to. Reading to them when they are young inculcates a lifelong love for books. As they are born into a world of pleasurable reading environment, it becomes second nature for them to show interest in books.
Reading has lots of benefits to children. They get to learn new words each time, become knowledgeable of the world, gives them the words to express themselves, sparks vivid imaginations, helps them develop empathy, brings out more curiosity, teaches them values, and so on.
Here are simple ways to instill a lifelong love for reading in a child.
- Read. Children emulate what they see their parents doing. Having a genuine enthusiasm for books and seeing you read will reflect in their actions as well.
- Create a reading routine that suits both you and the child. Say, in the morning or moments before tucking them to bed. Read to them daily. Even as they grow older and learn to read on their own, make time to continue doing so together.
- On the first day that you read to them, allow them the time to interact with the book. Allow them to turn the pages and to see the pictures.
- Read out aloud to them. Ask them to sound out the words too. It helps in learning new words faster, makes the activity more engaging, and gives life to words. Move your hands along each word you read.
- Children have a short attention span. Dedicating a 20-minute book session a day is enough for them. You can extend the time as they grow older.
- Have reading be creative and fun. Make sounds, faces, use gestures and involve them in that for practical reading.
- Visit bookstores with them and allow them to select books that they find appealing. Instead of buying books and give them at home, regularly going to the bookstores together whenever you want to get them a book is empowering. They will know where to buy books on their own when they are older. Bookstores too will create long-lasting fond memories for them.
- Expose them to a wide range of genres. Get classical, folklores, historical, adventure, poetry, picture books, and so on to expand their thinking, interest and knowledge of the world.
- Talk about books with them in a way that depicts reading to be fun, endless and relaxing adventure.
- Listen as they talk about books. Ask questions about the books you are reading to them. Discuss about the books you are reading too.
- If a child is fussy, unwell, is unexcited about books or does not want to read on a certain day, respect their choice. To be able to impart a love for reading, reading should not be forced upon them.
- Make it easy for them to access books at home. As their curiosity for reading grows, children are likely to grab books by themselves to read. Also, carry a book in their bags when you go to places.
- Teach them how to take care of books. Remind them to return books afterwards.
- Have another person read out aloud to them by playing audiobooks at home. This is not only a step towards establishing a home reading environment but it also allows them to be fascinated by sounds.
- Have children meet with authors, particularly, of those whose books they have read. It serves as an opportunity to explore deeper about books as well as increases their passion for reading.
- Visit libraries together.
- Refer to a situation from a book when a similar one presents itself in the real world.
- Attend book-related events such as book launches, meet-ups, and enroll in book clubs with them.
- Gift books to them. If they show interest in a specific book series or author, surprise them with it.
- Ask them to read other materials apart from books. Getting them to read newspapers, magazines, posters, billboards, menus, helps them see other ways reading can be applied.