The need for children to imbibe the art of reading at that tender age readily brings to mind the famous quote by Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, the wife of the 35th President of the United States, John F. Kennedy.
She had said, “There are many little ways to enlarge your child’s world. Love of books is the best of all.”
And beyond enlarging their views, reading has also been found to increase their intelligence quotient.
No doubt, children are wont to spend their free time playing, sleeping, watching cartoons, eating and doing nothing, which seems like a natural routine for all children, but parents who are desirous of raising intelligent children that would stand out among others might need to encourage their children to read, and more importantly, make them love reading.
There appears to be no alternative to this. In a recent interview with Saturday PUNCH, the first graduate of the Afe Babalola University to have 5.00 CGPA, Ariyibi Olawale, 20, revealed that he started reading all sorts of books since he was young and that his parents had to coerce him into doing so.
He said, “I remember when my parents used to force me to read books. I practically grew up reading all sorts of books, from religious books to motivational books and school books. And they didn’t hesitate to spank me when necessary.”
In the same vein, the first graduate of University of Lagos to have 5.00 CGPA, Ayodele Dada, also attributed his brilliance, partly, to the fact that he developed love for reading since he was young.
He had said, “I read a wide variety of books since I was young, especially if I was convinced I would learn from the book. I used to show those books to my friends but they saw them as boring. I didn’t have to finish all the books; there were times I would read some and once I found that I had got as much as I needed, I could drop them and look for another. I read a lot and reading became one of my hobbies.”
These imply that there are derivable benefits when children read, but for understandable reasons, such love for reading may not come easy, as such children might need to be cajoled into doing it.
According to a family physician and consultant paediatrician, Dr. Rotimi Adesanya, parents or guardians can start once a child clocks three, as it is about the time they would have learnt to pronounce three-lettered words, like bat, cap, etc.
Here are tips on how to instil love for reading in children:
Read to them: Findings have shown that one good way to make children embrace reading is for parents to read to them, whether at bed time or during their leisure. Experts have advised that the reading might not take hours but that consistency and the parents’ commitment to it matter a lot, and that it must be done at regular intervals. An educationalist, Moya Dixon, advised that parents should start with what children love to hear, like interesting stories. Dixon added, “Ask questions as you read. Let the children read a line or two, but most of all, read with love, understanding and compassion.” He added that once a child derives joy from such, parents could start reading to them from books that inspire and motivate.
Expose them to varieties: It is entirely understandable that children could easily be bored when a book doesn’t seem to appeal to them from the beginning, therefore, parents have been advised to feel free to introduce their children to other materials, like magazines and newspapers, which tend to be more pictorial and have varied content. “This will not only boost confidence, but children will be encouraged to read,” Dixon added. Also, parents are advised not to foreclose the option of playing audio books for them because they could find it interesting.
Give them books that have visuals and bold fonts: Children are attracted to pictures and cartoons, thus, parents who want to instil love for reading in their children should provide them with books that have such, and not those with texts only. According to Adesanya, “Whatever books they are to read should have a lot of visuals and cartoons. That would increase their interest. Also, such books should have big and bold fonts so they don’t have to stray their eyes to read, because they might get discouraged based on that.” He added that it is also helpful if such books leave them with open-ended questions, such that they might need to consult their parents or older persons for answer, noting that reading could boost a child’s IQ.
Know the kind of book they like to read and buy for them: Having exposed them to different kinds of books, parents are advised to look out for the type of book the child tends to develop interest in. It could be novels, history books, comics or just story books. Dixon said, “When we know exactly what they like, then we can begin to buy books for them or give them as gifts. It is important to allow children to choose the book they want to read. This will increase confidence and their interests in books and reading.”
Create an atmosphere comfortable for reading: Given that children pay attention to things as little as the lighting or painting in a room, parents have been advised to create a comfortable space for children to read, so they could make a habit out of it and once they see it as an activity that offers comfort and relaxes the mind, they might embrace the idea.
Let them know why they should read: If not enlightened on the reasons for exposing them to reading, children tend to see such as punishment and so develop a cold attitude towards it or do it with grudges. So, in order to ensure that a child makes sense of the book he or she is reading, parents are advised to have reviews with them at intervals and let them know why it is good for them to embrace the idea.
Never use reading as punishment: As much as parents are more likely to do everything they can to make their children love reading, it has been established that using reading as a punishment could be counterproductive as it tends to reduce their penchant for it. On this, Dixon, who wrote on edutopia, said, “Reading should not be used as punishment as it will decrease their love for it. Reading is not only for learning, but a privilege and children should be taught to appreciate reading.”
Don’t stop reading to them: After some time of reading to children, they might have developed some skills and love for reading on their own, but parents are advised not to stop, as this gives a child the impression that he or she is not alone. Beyond the fact such presents the parents an opportunity to educate the children on many things about life as they progress, it also helps to keep the children going, especially when they are at a crossroads.
Let them see you read: Children are known to replicate and learn from what they see, coupled with the fact that they could be despaired when they see themselves as the only ones reading in the house. Parents have therefore been advised to make sure their children also see them reading. This, according to experts, assures the children that they are not alone, and it is for this reason that parents are advised to organise family reading time, whereby everybody would read and rub minds.
Reward them with gifts when they meet targets: This is another way to make children embrace reading. Adesanya explained that this approach has been proven to be effective, just as it works for children who are still into bed-wetting. He said, “You can introduce reward system for most of the things that are right for children. For example, promising a child he or she would watch cartoon if they do their homework and vice versa would make a lot of difference. So, promise of reward works for children.”