Sunday, January 2, 2011

Getting children to read and love books!

I often hear complaints from parents that their children are not interested in books - this is a growing problem - I know many college students who hardly read any books other than those in their academic curriculum. The unfortunate fact is that they dont even know what they are missing and are blissfully happy with their iPods and Facebook. What makes the situation even sadder is that the reading habit is very difficult to develop later in life and if the interest is not kindled in childhood, a grand and majestic avenue of life is closed permanently.

So what can we do about it?

Well, my question to the parents would be - how many books do you read? You will seldom find a child not liking books in a household where at least one parent is an avid reader. However, that does not solve the problem for those parents who unfortunately have not developed a reading habit - what can they do?

I would suggest three steps:

1. Start early: get the children familiar with books at the earliest age possible - even 2 or 3 years is not too young. Btw, if the children are older and starting late, any type of books are fine - many parents are skeptical about comics. But, comics are indeed a good place to start.

2. Read with them: I don’t mean reading aloud (which is also very good for small children), but reading the same books that they are reading. Parents who do not typically read many books should take the effort to read a few of the children’s books - try Harry Potter for example and you might also end up loving books!. This leads to the most important thing - you should discuss the book and its story or content at the family dining table or TV room or wherever the whole family gets together. Make sure that the discussion is natural and not forced - it need not be long - maybe just a retelling of a joke or a metaphor or relationship from the book to some news in the TV or the newspaper. This will lead to miraculous results especially when one of the kids has read the book and the other has not. The one who hasn’t read will feel left out of the discussion and you can be sure that he/she would make it a point to read the book later. By the way, you will not need to (and should not) talk much - as the discussion starts, the children will take over and you can make use of the opportunity to develop their communication skills. It is also very important to develop open thinking and the ability to listen to ideas and opinions that one may not agree with. We should all learn to ‘agree to disagree’ at a very early age.

3. Visit books stores and libraries along with children: Some of the most pleasurable memories of my childhood have been the times that I spent with my parents in book stores and libraries. Opening up different books, discussing and reviewing together will create so much bonding in the family. I practiced it with my children and shopping for books was one of the most valuable treats they would look out for.

All the best and wish you all a happy 2011 of reading fun.


Veerappan said...

Excellent piece of advice. Thanks a lot for your advice. I read books mainly because I trust books rather than hearsay. I have been carefully watching your reading habit. Corner of the mind, I keep telling myself that I should read a lot about history when I get closer to 45 years of old. I am not sure if my approach is correct. But, I am quite certain that books are going to be occupying myself when I get older. I love people who are reading books. I have put my son in a library. I am able to see that he is silently cultivating the habit of reading. He reads lots of comics and some 'tell me why and how?' types of books. I would be very happy if I can get 15-20 minutes of your time one day just to talk about your passion.


Rajesh G Nair said...

Great Advice Santhosh. I'm fortunate enough to have my two kids read a lot. My son didn't start that early but my daughter was.After seeing she reading he started reading a lot too. As we all know schools and teachers often play a great role in this reading habit. I'm worried both a getting a certain type of books and teachers often give some guidance to reading all kinds of books so that their thought is more broader.
Thanks again. I know Santhosh you are great role model too in reading.

Happy New Year to you and family.

Rajesh Nair