From 0 to 80 books in a year!
Books are a uniquely portable magic.Stephen King
Last year I made two ‘reading-related’ resolutions. One was to read 36 books in the year and the other was to ensure that my then 7-year-old son would start reading some books.
Now, I am an avid reader and I gobble up all types of books – fiction or non-fiction, fantasy or romance, contemporary or classics. My husband also reads, though mainly non-fiction. We have two large bookshelves overflowing with books. It was no wonder that I wanted my son to develop this amazing habit of reading as well.
Being a smart mom, I decided to use my son’s competitive spirit to meet my ends. I decided to make a Resolution Chart where we would list down the books read by each of one of us. As the year started, my number started increasing slowly, but steadily.
<Competition is a great way to make kids do something.>
<Visual tracking of goals and how much has been achieved, is very useful to develop a new habit.>
I bought some fun books for my son– Enid Blytons, Geronimo Stiltons, Roald Dahl.
His comment, “These are too fat! How will I read them?”
Fat! Had he even seen fat books? I wanted to show him a copy of Gone With the Wind!
In any case, I took a few deep breaths and used my persuasive powers to tell him how fun they will be and how much he would enjoy them but to no avail. He was busy with his school, friends and karate classes. No time to read!
People who know me, will understand when I say that I am not one to give up so easily.
I showed him the chart. “Don’t you want to win?” I asked.
I saw the wavering in his eyes. That was all I needed – the indecision! What kind of mom would I be if I couldn’t convert the indecision to a decision that favored what I wanted him to do?
“I will help you,” I said. “I will read one page and you read the next.”
<I found that this was a great way to beat the initial inhibition>
Before he could say anything, I picked up Mr Pink Whistle by Enid Blyton. It was perfect because it had a number of short stories and was not a full novel. It was also perfect because the stories are a lot of fun. In that one sitting we completed two stories reading one-one page each. The way my son smiled and laughed at the stories and the incidents, I knew he would come back for more.
<The first few books are important. They should be fun and easy to read and understand>
The process had begun!
The next day, he came again. “Let us read,” he said. I was busy with some work and was about to respond with, “Not now,” when he brought out the chart and said, “I want to add one book in my column as well.”
The mother in me popped out, and I set my work aside and read one story with him, again reading one-one page each. I told him to read the next one himself if he wanted to, while I sat next to him and did my work. I was half expecting him to walk away and start playing, but to my surprise, he sat down and read the story. Later that night, while I was putting him to bed, instead of me telling him a story, it was he who was telling me the story that he had read!
That was the start! The ball had begun to roll!
Soon after this, the lock-down due to Covid started and we were confined to our home. There was no school, no going out to play with friends, no cycling or karate classes. I did not allow too much television (yes, I am a strict mom!). We played scrabble, chess, Uno. He made amazing stuff with lego blocks, but most of all, the lock-down gave my son an opportunity to understand how books can be great friends, how you can lose yourself in a book for hours, how you can imagine the world in your head and how the characters come alive in your imagination.
He read the Famous Fives and Roald Dahls. He heard of Harry Potter movie when he spoke to one of his friends. “They are lovely movies,” I said, handing the first volume to him. “You can watch them after reading the book. I want you to imagine the world yourself first.”
He was overwhelmed by the size of the book. “Try out a few pages and see if you like it. You can always read it later if it seems too long or difficult for yo. You are a small boy right now,” I said.
As expected, the words ‘small boy’ did the trick.
The next morning I found him deeply engrossed in reading the book. When he left it, I could see the excitement in his eyes and the desire to go back to reading, to know what was happening to his new friends in the magical world.
<Always try to make them read the book before watching the movie>
He read the first one, then the second and in a month, he had finished the series. The beast had woken up. He was hungry for more. I had to keep the food coming. He read the Artemis Fowl series, Narnia, many more Enid Blytons and almost all of Roald Dahl for kids, some Ruskin Bond, some Geronimo Stiltons, some mythology books. His erstwhile empty bookshelf was slowly becoming like ours, overflowing with books.
On his eighth birthday, we gave him the Percy Jackson series. The lock-down had eased. He had started playing a little with friends, online classes had started, but he took out time every day to read.
What was happening to the Resolution chart, you ask? There was one column which was expanding everyday. I, who had been proud enough to say in the beginning of the year, “Try to read at least a few books. Obviously I will win. I know its not a fair competition,” was far behind.
I read around 50 books, an achievement in itself, I’d say (and a lot of it was because I wanted to win. Yes, I am also competitive) but my son, now eight year old read over 80 books last year! He laughs when he remembers how he had found Mr Pink Whistle ‘a very fat book’ just last January.
<Children follow what you do – If you want them to read, you must take out time to read yourself>
This year, we have the chart up again. I am at four books already, again a decent number, given that it has not even been a month. My son is already at 10! I’ve told him I will beat him to it this year, but even though I will lose the competition, I know that I will still win.
I now have a son who loves to read!
“Books are the quietest and most constant of friends; they are the most accessible and wisest of counselors, and the most patient of teachers.”Charles W. Eliot