Parents today place great emphasis on a child’s intellectual development. They realise that education is in many ways the key to a child’s success in the future and they realise that it is the first 6 years of life that a child begins to absorb and process new knowledge.
Reading of course is a key component in the process of education. A child who reads is a child who learns. Reading opens up a whole new world to the child.
Yet the challenge many parents face today is that very few children develop the love or interest in reading. In the age of 24-hour cartoon channels and computer games, reading has taken a backseat in many homes.
The following are some tips for parents to encourage a love for reading among their children.
1. Start reading to your child at an Early Age
From the time the child is born, they can already process language sounds and they can certainly get excited by colourful pictures. Parents can start reading to their children from a very young age.
Start reading to your children while they are still infants. Research indicates that even a 6-month-old child starts to recognise and process language sounds and by 8 months starts to understand the meaning of words.
Reading also exposes your child to a whole new world of information. My advice is to read at least 4-5 books per day to a 1-year-old child, and at least 7-8 books a day to a 2-to-4 year old child and for 5 years old and above, at least 10 books a day.
It is important to pick children’s books that have well illustrated pictures.
Read a variety of books, from stories, to geography books, to science books. Remember, reading is a form of travel; you are taking your child on an exciting journey to faraway lands, to explore new sights and experiences; for that is ultimately what learning is; a journey of exploration.
2. Read by Example
It is hard to encourage our children to read unless they see us setting a good example. It’s hard of course, given how busy we are nowadays, but with the discipline and time management we can be a model to our children.
As parents we should make it a point to read a new book every month. Start by choosing something you’re interested in; it could be a novel, or a book about politics or history, or a book about travel, or even something practical like a book about gardening or cooking. The key thing is to regain a love for reading ourselves.
This doesn’t necessarily mean buying new books. There are libraries in most towns in Malaysia and many second hand bookshops.
We should also make it a point to talk about the books we are reading. At meal times, when we are travelling in the car; these are times to tell our children stories of things we have read to get them excited about reading.
The bottom-line is that before we tell our children to read, we need to make a conscious effort to begin reading ourselves. Interest cannot be forced but it can be infectious. For some of us this is a huge challenge given our busy schedules. However, when we regain our discipline and enjoyment for reading, we will find that inevitably we have helped create a reading culture in our homes.
3. Make Reading a Family Activity
In line with making reading a family culture, parents can take children to the library or to a bookshop once a month. The idea would be that each member of the family can choose a new book to read.
There have been some excellent bookshops that have opened in Kuala Lumpur and other major towns around the country, including some really good children’s book stores. These bookshops typically have well decorated and well resourced children’s book sections along with reading areas for children. Just the sight of seeing other children reading and enjoying books is an inspiration for the child.
It is also a good practice for each family member to share what they have read with one another. Getting your child to talk about the stories they have read is a good way to help them process the information they have absorbed. It also improves their communication skills.
Reading is a key skill that enables education and learning. If we want our children to be highly educated individuals, we should create a reading culture in our family that will inspire them to develop a love of reading.