Your child (and you) might actually like reading, you just haven’t realised it yet. Mr Prasatt Arumugam, from the School of the Arts’ Faculty of Literature in English, explains why he believes “non-readers” are really readers who have yet to find a book that speaks to them.
By Mr Prasatt Arumugam, Faculty of Literature in English, School of the Arts
The year-end holidays are in full swing. Which can only mean one thing – kids to be kept (meaningfully!) occupied. Dear parents, if you are at a loss for what to do with them, there’s something that can really make a difference.
If you let out an inward groan because you just know that your kid would rather eat a plateful of broccoli than read, fret not. As someone who believes that a “non-reader” is just someone who hasn’t found a book that speak to him, I offer a few ways in which parents can help nurture a love for reading in their children.
Start where they are
Before you ask, yes – comics count. I have heard some critics try to argue for the superiority of “must read books” over “inferior reading material” like comics and fan fiction. Yes, there is a place for well-loved classics but forcing it down your child’s throat is a sure-fire way to turn him away from reading. Autonomy is a crucial component in motivation: giving your child the space to read whatever interests him will heighten his interest in reading. It also makes it more likely he will find greater relevance in what he reads. So, let him break out the comics, worry-free.
Be a reader too
Teachers have a favourite saying: values are caught, not taught. In the classroom, when my students see me reading with them, they are more engaged than if I were to drone on about the importance of reading. At home, when parents make reading a priority for themselves, they are better able to create a home culture where reading is seen as important.
Take an interest in their reading
As part of building a home culture of reading, talk to your child about the books he is reading. What does he like or not like and why? Does he have a favourite character? If he does not like a book, what other book would you encourage him to read? Also important is sharing your reading experiences. By taking a genuine interest in your child’s reading life, and talking about your reading, you demonstrate that reading is something to be valued. This further normalises the activity as part of your family culture which in turn increases your child’s engagement.
Think back on your reading history
Research tells us that parental attitudes towards reading impact the interest of children. If you are someone who prefers turning on Netflix rather than pick up a book, consider what that might convey to your child. If you shun reading, it is worth reflecting on why this is so. Did you have bad experiences with books, growing up? How did those make you feel? When we come to terms with our reading histories, we are better able to act intentionally and shape better opportunities for our children.
Head to the library
Print-rich environments are yet another essential component to making readers out of children. The constant exposure to high-quality texts and plentiful opportunities to practise reading contributes to solidifying their identities as readers. Building a collection of books at home that interest your child helps a lot. Or consider making regular trips to the library with your child to maintain a constant rotation of new titles for free!
This weekend, consider trying out these five strategies at home with your child. Who knows, your child might get bitten by the reading bug and ask for their stockings to be filled with book after book. Now wouldn’t that be a happy problem?
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