Developing the Habit of Reading in Children

The World of Books

Today a reader, tomorrow a leader.

– Margaret Fuller

It is never too early to start the habit of reading in our children and expose them to the wonderful world of books.

Less than 3 years old

Reading to children even at infancy has proven benefits as they grow older. It is imperative that you read to and with your child at this age:

  • Boosts language skills – American Academy of Paediatrics’ research shows that ‘reading books with a child beginning in early infancy can boost vocabulary and reading skills four years later, before the start of elementary school’.
  • Helps brain development – Another AAP research has also shown that ‘children from more stimulating home reading environments had greater activity in brain areas supporting narrative comprehension and visual imagery, which are important for both language and reading.’
  • Strengthens relationship with child – If you read with your child everyday, it has been shown to strengthen relationship. The trust and security eventually helps in a relatively easier transition to school life.

Get picture books and read to them in animated voices to pique their interest. Don’t be afraid to go overboard with the animation – use animal sounds and all funny sounds and noises that you can. Once they start speaking, stop occasionally, point to objects and figures and ask them to name what it is. Explain to them how the picture relates to the story. Read to them books with repeated phrases and encourage them to speak those phrases along with you.

3-5 years old

At this age, they start recognising alphabets and small words. Once they start reading 3-4 letter words, encourage them to read books like Peppa Pig or Pepper series (books which have 1-2 sentences per page, large illustrations and have 6-10 pages). Sit with them when they read, so that you can help them out with words and explain the meaning of these words to them. Sometimes, while they can read ‘words’ they are not able to comprehend the meaning. This is where you step in.

By 5 years, most children will be able to read these small stories independently. You can explore books by Julia Donaldson – they have amazing illustrations, simple and interesting storyline and easy rhyming language. I have seen a few children get in the habit of reading after reading these books. Ask them to read aloud to build their confidence. Even if they start reading themselves, continue reading to them stories which are at a slightly higher level than they can read on their own.

6 years and above

Most children start reading independently by this age. You can slowly increase their level from short stories and picture books to stories with 2 or 3 chapters (For example The Wishing Chair series by Enid Blyton) and then on to full books. There is no dearth of great books for this age group – from Enid Blyton books to Roald Dahl, Ruskin Bond, Geronimo Stilton series etc. Before you know it, your child will be immersed in the magic that only books can bring. They learn about emotions, they develop their creativity and give flight to their imagination.

We will be coming up with detailed book reviews as well in some time for different age groups.

A reader lives a thousand lives before he dies . . . The man who never reads lives only one.

– George R.R. Martin

Some Helpful Tips

  • Be a role model – Children learn what they see. If they see you reading everyday, they will definitely pick it up.
  • Read every day as a family – You can set aside time for reading when everybody in the family reads books. If you do something every day for enough number of days, it becomes a habit.
  • Keep a variety of books in your children’s room – If possible, let there be encyclopaedias, story books, adventure series, fairy tales. Let them choose what they want to read. You can give suggestions at other times of the day. I have seen children turn pages of children’s encyclopaedias and suddenly start reading a page they find interesting and then try to find more about that topic from other books or by asking you about it. They might be in the mood for short stories or Famous Five or some fairy tale that you read to them when they were younger. Let them have their pick.
  • Keep a record of what your child has read – This gives them an incentive to read more and a sense of pride in how many books they have read.
  • Never push a child to read books that they are not ready for. It can be frustrating for the child and might eventually lead to a fear of reading. If your friend’s daughter can read a Famous Five at 5 years but yours is scared by just the small print and number of pages – let them be! Every child learns at their own pace. While some children start reading a little early and some a little late, it is seen that by grade 2 or 3, most children are at the same reading level.
  • Start a series – When they start reading full chapter books/stories, it might be a good idea to start a series. This encourages them to read the next book, once they finish one, to see what their favourite characters are upto.

As a parent or teacher, your role is to develop a love for reading, to help them go on that journey of imagination and creativity, to experience vicariously and to learn about different places and cultures.

There is more treasure in books than in all the pirate’s loot on Treasure Island.

– Walt Disney

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