There’s a lot of talk about getting kids into the habit of reading. Reading not only improves the child’s language skills, imagination and vocabulary, but also helps build their character. Yes, good books have that potential! Often we find that children become good readers, one book at a time.
My friends often ask me what is the right age to introduce books to the child and how they can help their kids with picking the right book. I’d say the key is to start early and initially you will have to pick the books for the child. Buy books instead of toys and read out to them whenever you can, not just at bedtime. This creates a ritual, one that they associate with a “cozy time” together with the parent.
Here’s something interesting I read some time ago on how to PICK a book –
P is for Purpose – Is the book for pleasure or to learn something? What are they looking for in a book?
I is for interest – Where does the child’s interest lie? Is the child interested in adventure, cars, history, magic? Find out before you recommend books to them.
C is for comprehend – Can they understand what they are reading? Can they remember what they just read? Were they able to read most of the words? Is it appropriate for their age or level of reading?
K is for know the words – if all words in a page are familiar then the book is too easy. If there are a couple of words that are not familiar then it is just the right book. And if there are five or more words that the child is not familiar with, then it is too difficult.
Knowing how to PICK can be empowering for the child. In the beginning the child will need your help to choose the books and gradually they will learn the art of picking the right book for themselves.
For toddlers you can buy hard bound, plastic coated or cloth books with lots of colorful pictures and textures or pop ups. The child should be able to hold it in his hands, feel it and be able to browse through it as often as he wants to. It helps if the pictures are familiar and includes things he sees every day.
As they grow, replace them with short stories that use words that they are comfortable reading and understanding. As a thumb rule, if there are more than five words in a page that the child cannot read or understand, then go for something easier. When reading becomes tough, it puts off the child and that is something you don’t want to do. Begin with reading out to them and gradually ask them to take over. The best time to leave the child alone with the book is when the book has piqued his/her interest. Encourage the child to ask questions or have discussions. Another simple method is to start with comics or kids magazines. These books have pictures, short stories and puzzles too which hooks the child quicker than you might think.
Older children may like to read novels, fact books, trivia books, biographies, classics, historical fiction or mythology. Let them explore each subject and decide what interests them. You can suggest books by good authors and titles as per their age.
Your home library is one of the best places to start. Let the child browse through your collection whenever they want to. See what books they pick. Does fiction interest them or does non-fiction hold their attention? Leave them in a book store or take them to the library when you visit and you will be surprised with what they can choose. My elder one was interested in history and asked me to buy him books on the great Indian emperors and freedom fighters, and on explorations around the world! I personally wouldn’t have picked it up myself!
As a parent you can also guide them to choose books that not only entertain and enlighten but also challenge them without overwhelming them. But it would be better to let them experiment. Allow them the pleasure of choosing a book. It is ok if s/he finds a book boring and wants to drop it midway or read the same book again. Reading is supposed to be fun, not a chore. If you find the task of recommending books to your child daunting, take the help of the librarian or the teacher. They always know what books are right for the kid’s age.
Limit technology. Once children learn to relax with television or computers, they will never get back to reading and conversely if they have gotten into reading mode, you can be sure nothing else will take its place!
My name is Shubhangi Srikanth and I write under the pen name Titli. I started my blog “the little princess” and it helped me channel my thoughts in the proper direction.
After having worked for more than 12 years in the Pharmaceutical and Banking sector, I now freelance as a content writer for medical and health websites. I have two adorable boys, who have taught me more about life than I could teach them. Being a mother is one of the most fulfilling roles of my life, one that I wouldn’t trade for anything in the world!