Parenting: Want to get your 8 year olds to read?

IMG_3644There is the age  when you read out to your children and then there is one when they ‘read’ because their peers do. When you read it out, you pick the right books for your children and when they grow up their choices become an extension of their personalities. What about the time in between then, when they are growing up?

At ages 8 to 10, children have started reading but still need their parents to help them choose a book to read. Children this age are often reluctant readers because it is a difficult job to do. It involves deciphering a combination of symbols, interpreting what they mean, and then further comprehending the context and relating to it. Phew! It must be an extreme exercise for little ones who have just started out exploring it.

Here are some ways to encourage your children towards a love for reading:

  1. Be your child’s buddy. Read what they read and be ready for a discussion.
  2. Allow them to skim through the book while you ask them questions about it to ignite their curiosity.
  3. It is important that they are given a choice amongst varied genres. The book covers are a great indicator to see what kind they would be attracted to the most.
  4. Take them to book stores and libraries to check what style of display attracts them the most. Adopt the same style to display books in their room so that non visibility does not stop them from reading.
  5. Find them books that best reflects their personality.
  6. Talk to them about plot and characters, setting ,climax and solution.
  7. Find activities to do with them to kindle their imagination. A game where participants take turns to add lines to an instantly  made up story( Tall Tales) is one way to do that. If you find them day dreaming, let them! There are many other ways too, of course!
  8. Help them to discover new ideas for themselves by encouraging them to talk about characters or situations with their friends.
  9. Encourage them to read one page every night at bedtime. (suggested by Kina Parwani, a friend)
  10. Reading while traveling is again a common practice to inculcate the reading habit.

Parents are the best people in a child’s world to model their reading habits on. If their parents love reading, so will they. Extended family are a big influence too. In most homes in India, grandparents introduce stories to children for the first time.

A few days ago, on April 14, I had been working with a handful of kids aged between seven  and 11 years. We began with a truth and lie game based on their reading habit, blew balloons to learn about story structure ( one balloon for each part), listened to an audio story and drew a picture each on the part we loved the best, discussed different kinds of fictional styles by looking at pictures of book covers and established which we liked the most.

Little Isha ( name changed) had been a little distracted at first because she had a tummy ache. She took a break and when she returned, declared “I want to start reading my book” It had been one about a rock star Barbie, she told me later. She got herself comfortable on the day bed and found another book on Dasavatar. “A God book! I love God books!” she exclaimed. I stood next to her admiring her zeal and could not help smiling. 

[ Just then, my mind drifted to the static picture of little Asifa, that all Indians have been unfortunate to witness. She was the girl who could not have understood what was going on with her. In the woods, where her tormentors continued to harm her, she must have thought that ‘my mother will be here soon and then it will all be okay’. Mother, did not come]

As my eyes welled up, Isha did not look up. She had been busy with her ‘God book’.

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