It would be fair to state that reading is a fundamental skill all children need to master as it is required in all major facets of life, yet how many parents can relate to any of the following scenarios:
1. You have just concluded a Parent-Teacher meeting with your child's teacher and are informed that your child is able to read very well however, the drive
to read is just not there and this is having an adverse effect on his/her creativity when story writing.
2. Your child's teacher is running some form of motiviational reading scheme in class and your child is currently in the lower percentile of completion.
3. At home your child grumbles and makes excuses to avoid reading and/or prefers other activities to reading.
For many, these three scenarios are a hard-fast realtiy that need to be contended with and more often than not, provide a source of frustration for both the parents and the child respectively.
I remember all to well the number of parents who visited my classroom during Parent-Teacher conference days asking me for help in getting their child to read voluntarily. The answers I gave varied depending on the child in question but there were a few which I found myself presenting to the concerned parent/s over and over again in the hopes that the advice given would be the catalyst in encouraging the child in question to choose reading as a source of entertainment which in turn, would hopefully lead to enhancing their creativity and vocabulary. Some were very easy to accomplish and would have a compounding effect over time, others were difficult and required patience and resolve on the part of the parent.
I would like to share some advice I gave since commencing my career in education in 1994 and which I believe is still relevant to this very day.
1. Provide reading material on various topics in your household. A child whose household is bare of reading material will not develop a curiousity for reading. Providing books around the home is a great way to start but it needn't stop there. Magazines, newspapers even Ebooks on a desktop or laptop device can also stimulate a child's sense of curiousity towards reading. Many times I was told by parents that children can only learn to develop a constitution and appreciation for reading by reading books, solely.
For some yes, for the great majority, NO.
Some children require visuals in the material they are reading in order to allow the process of what they are reading to flow and be internalised. If the child is reading and is gaining value from what he/she is reading then by all means, allow and encourage him/her to continue doing so. You'll be surprised at watching them eventually migrate towards books when they are ready to do so.
2. Allow your child to choose what he/she would like to read and show an interest in it. I remember myself telling parents this short story about my own reading experience whilst growing up. Thankfully, I had started with a love for reading from an early stage in my life as my mother used to provide my brothers and I with a number of books. Computers had not even been invented, yes I must sound like a dinosaur!
When I was nine I remember playing with my friends at the end of a cul de sac that we lived on. My friends and I were skateboarding from one paved driveway to another - no helmet, no elbow or knee pads or any other sort of safety equipment. Some other children thought it would be funny to throw small pebbles on the drive for us to avoid and sadly, one got caught in my skateboard's wheels and I went flying over the curb and broke my arm, badly.
Locality photo compliments of Google Maps
Hey, it was a different time but I think it helped develop a tougher perspective on life whilst growing up - but that's a story for another day.
Needless to say I got up and saw that I had broken my left forearm so I began walking home to let my parents know while my arm dangled by my side making weird noises as the broken bones rubbed unnaturally together.
To make a long story short, the fracture was a lot worse than expected and I had to be put under
the following morning in order for the doctor to set it correctly. When I woke up from the operation with my arm wrapped in plaster, I found a brand new comicbook waiting for me on the bedside table in my hospital room which my parents had purchased for me. I still remember it to this day - The Mighty Thor King Size Annual No. 10! I must have read through that comicbook at least 3 - 4 times that day. I was hooked. The artwork, the storyline, the creativity, it was all so amazing that it stirred a desire in me to read more! For the next 13-14 years I became an avid collector of comicbooks which I purchased and read lovelingly every week when they hit the newstand shelf. I even managed to drag my father to a few comicbook meetings, since I couldn't drive, which I had appreciated as it showed that he was taking an interest into the new medium of reading that I was enjoying.
Batman, Superman, The Avengers, The Fantastic Four, Spiderman, X-Men, Justice League, the list went on and on and my fascination grew. This in turn lead on to a desire for reading Fantasy books and books about the authors and illustrators who created these comicbooks. I firmly believe the stories I read in these comicbooks helped to make my own story writing whilst growing up and writing at school and for my own pleasure, even more creative.
Many of the parents to whom I had told this story to took on the advice and it was a pleasure to see some of their children bring an issue they were reading to school to show me or at the very least, bringing some other form of reading material, besides a book, that they were enjoying.
So to those of your who are reading this article today. Don't fret that your child may not wish to read a book, but take interest in what it is they wish to read and show as much encouragement as you can. If your son or daughter takes a liking to reading through a medium of their choice, it will eventually lead them to books and give them the patience, constitution and fortitude to read through an entire book when they are ready for it.
3. The third and final advice I would like to share, and this one may be difficult to accomplish, is to set limits on the digital activities a child participates in on a daily basis. In this dane age where the onset of digital technology has advanced in leaps and bounds, there is no shortage of attention grabbing games and social media
websites that will usurp your child's time if not kept in check. Smartphone apps are making these games and websites accessible 24/7 and while there is nothing wrong with them if used in moderation, just like everything else, if we allow these to step in and become adhoc babysitters without limitations then the battle of making reading a healthy choice is potentially lost.
A child who has already become accustomed to coming home from school and wasting most of his/her afternoon playing games, texting or communicating with others via Social Media websites will not be pleased at all about having limitations placed on their favourite past time, however as parents who are duty bound to protect and nurture their children, and yes, even from games, texting and Social Media platforms, a healthy balance between these activities and reading is necessary. A weening process will have to be put into place so that the gradual introduction of reading as a choice for entertainment can be enacted upon and I would encourage this to be done in gradual steps, don't have your child go 'cold turkey' or you will be setting yourself and your child to frustration, aggrevation and eventually failure.
Take it in steps and spend that time with your son/daughter reading yourself and discussing the literature with him/her as this can show your child that there is great benefits to reading. Why not start with a piece of literature about his/her favourite game or how the Internet came into existence. Over time you can gradually increase the amount of time your child will have to spend reading, you may even see him/her increase this amount of their own accord. The most important thing is that you find what interests your son or daughter has and build upon these interests through reading.
I hope you enjoyed reading through this article and I would love to read any comment you would like to contribute. Do you have any other tips that you'd like to share that weren't covered in this article? Did you have a child that did not want to read and over came this issue? How did you deal with it?