I have a little boy who is 6.5 years old. And he reads. Not because it is forced on him, or requested or because he is showered with too many books every day in a hope that he would start (I think this is the most counterproductive of all).
He reads because he has learned to love it. More importantly, he thinks it is a normal option to ward off “boredom”, in addition to playing with toys or playing outdoors or drawing and coloring or even, very rarely, watching a video or two on Youtube. Reading is just another option of things to do. Neither too special or considered above the others nor too boring to be even on the list, like is the case in many households these days.
Another thing you may have noticed is that Television is not on the list of things he does when bored. No. I haven’t restricted it and neither are we one of those households that just do not have a TV. He somehow just never thought of it as an option of things to do to fill time. He watches a little bit when he has dinner sometime, and when he has had enough of food, he seems to have had enough of TV as well.
A lot of mothers, when they come to drop their little ones for Storyhour for the first time, ask me questions like “what more can we do to make him/her read” OR “how do you make them love books?” OR even the very straightforward “How did you teach your son to read like that?”.
I have two extremely simple points to answer those and all other variants of those questions:
The first would be to make reading fun again.
And the second, to make it the most natural thing in the world. Normal. Something everyone around them does.
The first – To Make Reading Fun – is what I do at Storyhour, day in and day out at The Reading Room. But, I’d like to leave the accounts of our Storyhour activities for another post. For now, I shall try and talk about what happened at home that made reading a fun option for my boy.
I read with him.
Yes. It is as simple as that. The emphasis being on “I”, his mother. There were other people who he would go to for reading stories. But the times that I read to him was the most special for both of us, especially our bedtime stories. Even before he could understand the words and I would need to explain the story in Malayalam (our mother tongue), we would read without fail, every night. And this was the time we cuddled, we laughed together, we shared our own stories of the day, when he would remember to tell me about something that happened in the school, we laughed some more and so on till he was nodding away.
What happens here is, first of all, the very obvious fact that there is no pressure on him, no one is forcing him to read and no one is making reading a strict to-do activity. Instead, we have already made it a warm, lovely, happy and fun thing to do. In addition to that, more than the story itself, he has started relating the love, warmth, care, fun and laughter he feels at that moment with books in general.
So, even if I am not around, picking up a book, especially one among a few favorite ones, brings him a lot of joy and comfort. And that, I feel, is an answer to another question a lot of moms of tiny ones have asked me, which is, no matter how many new books they are given, why is it that the kids get attracted to the same two or three books all the time. The answer being, they are relating to much more than just the story there. They are relating to a whole gamut of positivity they first felt in the moments you shared when you read that story to them.
The second thing is to make reading normal. Not a To-do. Not a task. Not something he feels obliged because you’ve bought him books. But normal. And how do we do that? By being readers ourselves. That one was easy at our home. The boy is surrounded by grandparents who read whenever they get some free time and a mom who is a total bookworm such that he has barely seen her without a book. (To the extent that she left her job and got into the business of reading!) And a father who is a journalist. (Enough said? :D) So for him, picking up a book when you are sitting down was as natural as, well, sitting down. He started off as a little baby copying us and pretending to seriously read, and that just became a habit.
And then there is a third thing that I started recently, inspired by all these steps and some more. I decided that the best way for them to understand how fun books can be is for them to see other kids read and enjoy and make structured, yet unstructured fun and games out of reading.
So, with the intention of making them love reading and to take it to the next level of better imagination, better creativity in writing, better grasping and better communication, I decided to read to a group of children together. Here they shared their experiences and feelings of a story all together, loudly, boisterously and in a total fun manner, all in the context of the story of the day. But that is again going back to my Storyhour. For which we shall get back another day.