Raising Bookworms In The Age of Smart Phones And Tablets
"A reader lives a thousand lives before he dies" George R.R. Martin
Reading was a huge part of our lives growing up- our godparents would constantly bring us German classics to read and with not much else to do (we weren't allowed to watch a lot TV), we'd devour each book multiple times. Thanks to my siblings' enthusiasm, who'd started reading when they were 3 and 4 years old, I also developed what was to be a lifelong love for books.
As a bibliophile, one thing I knew for sure was that I wanted my future children to discover a love for reading.
If you love to do something, especially as a child, you'll be more inclined to do it. Being forced into it or just reading for the obligated 15 minutes set by school doesn't cut it; they might read but are their hearts engaged with the story and the characters so much so that they want to read whenever they get the chance to?
I want to share some of my ideas to encourage a love of reading in children which can empower their minds, enhance their knowledge and give them the ability to analyse situations differently.
1) Start Young & Limit Technology
Read aloud to your children from when they are babies and make it interactive- they may not understand the words but babies love the sound of their parents' voices.
I never gave technology and childhood much thought until I saw the effects of excessive use of Ipads and phones on certain kids. Once I realised that it was the exposure of technology that had affected these kids so much, I vowed to limit screen time for my future kids. I'm not saying my girls never watch TV, they do but it is definitely a treat. Do the girls use phones, tablets, games apps etc? Absolutely not, the only exception being when we are on a plane. So this opens up a lot of time for them, especially during lockdown- in our family, we have at least an hour of quiet time every afternoon. When your children get bored, don't resort to technology, hand them a book.
2) Be a role model
Let them see you reading! In the past year, I've read more books than I had in the previous 3-4 years, probably because I had 3 babies under 4 and was constantly sleep deprived and trying to catch up with life. It feels amazing to discover new books again and reignite my love for reading. Tell them why you love reading and talk to them about the joys of learning to read. I remember telling Maya (8) a few months ago that there is no feeling like cracking the spine of a new book and since then, whenever she starts a new book, she cracks the spine with a satisfying 'aaaahh' and a huge smile on her face.
3) Have a variety of books at home
Children go through phases and you never know which genres your children might prefer, so have a variety of books on hand to see what they might like. Initially Maya loved The Horrid Henry Series and I was slightly horrified- excuse the pun. I wanted her to read books with more depth but was advised by her teacher that she would grow out of it and move on- the important thing was to let her develop that love for reading and not forcing anything on her which may have put her off reading altogether. So I (however reluctantly) let her borrow all the Horrid Henry books she wanted and it's safe to say she has moved on.
Amaara (5) likes books with familiar characters like Elsa and Peter Rabbit, Maya (8) loves the "Harry Potter" series, "Mallory Towers" and mystery books like "Secret Seven" and "Famous Five". Imaani (4) loves interactive picture books with one or two lines of text which is appropriate for her reading level.
Maya has also started showing an interest in some non-fiction literature like "Great Women Who Changed The World" and "Strong is The New Pretty", which are inspiring reads for little girls. I had bought these books over a year ago but she only picked these up properly recently and enthusiastically recounted stories about women's history to me.
I keep each and every single book that I buy and have accumulated a small library from which Maya has borrowed the Harry Potter and Enid Blyton books so it's definitely worth holding on to those treasures.
4) Visit the library
Prior to Covid-19, I'd take the girls to the local library every other week. We'd easily spend over an hour there, picking out books to borrow and spending some time sitting on the bean bags and reading. At first the girls would pick too many books and wouldn't finish them in time for our next visit so I made a rule that the number of books each girl could borrow would depend on their age- Maya could borrow 8, Amaara 5 and Imaani 4 books, this way they weren't too overwhelmed and they almost always got to enjoy their books at a leisurely pace.
Charity shops can also be fun places to browse for books!
5) Buy them books on special occasions
I have a ton of books on my Amazon wish list for the girls but I wouldn't want to constantly overload them with random gifts so I wait for special occasions to gift them a book. When the girls get a good school report or pass a music exam, I get them a box set tied with a ribbon and leave it on their bed.
6) Introduce a Readathon day
This has been great during lockdown especially. I set a day where we do no homeschool and no other activities (except music) and we all settle down and read together, as many books as we wish. Creating reading nooks around your home will also encourage children to pick up a book and snuggle down.
Incorporate reading into your family's lifestyle, take books everywhere and make sure your children see you reading. Always encourage risk taking, question asking and mistake making.