Keys to Encourage a Love of Reading in Children
Conveying the value of reading to children is a gift. It is a tribute to their life and universal culture. It is a challenge to the imagination, a world of possibilities where they can develop the emotional and intellectual parts of their being.
Becoming an avid reader during childhood will help children increase their linguistic and intellectual aptitudes.
They can laugh, dream, play with reality, encourage their curiosity and also share more things with the people around them. A book is a key to another world, through which they will discover new countries, personalities, travel through space and time. And, without a doubt, they will want more and more of it every time.
Because maybe when they close a Lewis Caroll novel, they’ll be urged to discover Jules Verne. And after Verne, they might possibly run into a work by Robert Louis Stevenson. And who knows if after that they’ll discover the universe written by Conan Doyle. The classics are always a good pillar from which to start.
But it’s not always easy, we know. Children nowadays are governed by convenience, comfort and speed. New technology gives them access to a more broad and visual world in which everything, absolutely everything, seems easier. They put in less effort. There is no room left for imagination, because everything is already too explicit as it is.
Where does that leave mystery, subtlety and discovery? The buttons on their Xbox or whichever console they use guide them through an incredible world created by big-time video game companies. Electronics that have slowly but surely overtaken and overshadowed the universe of books.
As fathers, mothers, grandparents and educators, we shouldn’t allow this. We have to encourage them to set aside time for reading. But, how can we get them interested in books?
Strategies to instill a passion for books in children
1. Lead by example
You can’t convince anyone of anything if you don’t show them an example. It’s of no use to force a child to read if the child sees you sitting in front of a computer or television screen. If they see adults with a book in their hands from a very early age, it is more likely that they will feel interested, that they will ask you about it… that they will imitate you.
2. Early exposure
Believe it or not, children understand much more than you think. Before they even start talking, they can understand countless words. Before they start reading, they can acquire many other types of knowledge: poetic language, play on words and rhymes, listening to oral stories… Essentially, they need to be stimulated.
Sitting down with them with a story book and reading aloud to them will be a clear incentive for them. Listening to your voice, your intonation, the plot of the story… these are small steps that their brain will take until it is sufficiently mature enough to begin the reading-writing process.
All of this takes place before the age of three, when they are more interested in the sounds made than in the content of the stories themselves. But it is still very useful for them to internalize all of this linguistic information. Reading before they can even walk is incredibly beneficial.
4. Offer them freedom in their reading
Don’t force specific books on them. Cater to their tastes and offer suggestions. Also, don’t worry if they venture, for example, into the world of comics. Comics are a good stepping stone and a great universe that they can combine with similarly-themed books: fantasy, adventure, science-fiction…
Serve as a guide, but don’t force your own tastes on them. Always take their evolutionary process into consideration. Children grow up fast, and they will have new needs before you know it. And there’s always an ideal book for every age group, and for every personal moment. Make suggestions, teach, comment… Keep in mind as well that you can stimulate their pleasure for reading through other means. Explain to them that the vampire movie they watched in the movie theater, which they loved, is actually based on a book, for example. That the Walt Disney movies are good bedtime stories that they could read every night…
5. Always answer their questions and pay attention to what they say
Listen to what your children have to say. Always. Sometimes we barely have any free time in the afternoon, when they come home from school. But keep something in mind, if you don’t answer their questions or listen to their ideas and comments now that they are young, the day will come when they will stop seeking your attention and consulting things with you. So don’t hesitate, always try to find time for them.
Comment on the last chapter of the book they’re reading, listen to their ideas, suggest more things and sharpen their imagination. You are their greatest stimulus.