I grew up with piles of Ladybird books, Reader’s Digest gift editions and Tell Me Why’s. I don’t know how many of the Tell me Why’s I read in the true sense and how much I imbibed, but I definitely flipped through the pages because back then we didn’t have TV and definitely didn’t have smartphones.
Today it is a challenge to veer kids away from the lures of gadgets but it is not an impossible task. Inadvertently, I have been successful in making a bookworm of my 8-year-old and because of her my 4-year-old is following suit.
Here are some of the things that I did; most of it unintentionally but which turned out great…
Books can be around babies from as early as when they are grasping their rattles and soothers. Cloth books are a safe option which cannot hurt them and showing them the pictures in the board books arouses their curiosity. This way books are familiar to them at that young an age and the colors and pictures and the stories being narrated keep them asking for more.
As they grow older it would be wonderful to create a little corner for them with their favorite books and pencils or crayons and notepad for scribbling. You can be assured that the books will inspire them to imitate and also create their own stories in pictures too. This also instills a sense of discipline that the notepad is the place for them to doodle and get creative (or destructive too!).
As wonderful as reading is it is better to ask questions. Even at a young age, we can ask them for colors, names, shapes, etc. Questions can be plain yes/no questions; is it green? Or more general ones like; What do you see?/ Show me something square. This helps develop an analytical mind as well.
I have recently come across a range of books with just pictures and no words, this gives a free reign to the child’s imaginations as they can create their own stories from what they see. For the busy mother, the range of Audiobooks available helps the child to have the book and listen to the story too. This also lays emphasis on tone and intonation which they can be exposed to early on.
Reading need not be restricted to bedtime stories. At least in our metros, we have professionally trained story tellers. Their stories range from the classic fairy tales to complicated stories from mythology. This could pave the way for the little ones to tread away from clichéd professions and dabble with the possibility of offbeat ones too.
Books were very expensive where I stayed and we have bought books and sent it by cargo from India. I made the most of any book sale that came to town. This was a blessing in disguise because I started making use of the opportunity and buying books whenever I saw a good offer. So I had Famous Fives and Secrets Sevens piled on their bookshelf even before they could actually read.
Recently a friend told me her kid who is my daughter’s age doesn’t read anymore while the younger sibling is enjoying the books. What has happened is that the older ones outgrew their books and got bored while the collection was right for the younger child.
We all go a little overboard when they are children and forget to keep replenishing the stock with new books which are age appropriate. Bored with stories they have read zillion times, they turn to the ever-present instant joy-giving gadgets. So, though I was just making good of the deals around me, I just did something right, unintentionally, by buying all those Amelia Janes and Roald Dahls.
My child reads books which are way ahead of her year in terms of language and I wonder how much of it, she understands. Sometimes I feel it is her way of killing time as she has very limited screen time. But on the flip side, she is getting familiar with the nuances of the language like spelling, word patterns, and structure. She might not understand what she is reading but she will come back to the book (as she loves to re-read) and then vocabulary, spelling, and concepts will be reinforced. She does try her new vocabulary on me so it keeps me in the loop about what she is reading and gives me the opportunity to remove inappropriate books.
I can’t stress enough on how important it is to be a role model. Asking your child to read when you are glued to TV or fidgeting away with your smartphone is a complete deal breaker. The more your child sees you reading the more likely he/she is likely to follow suit; so I guess it’s about time to grab a book!
A teacher by profession and a writer by passion, Manju Sharma is working hard at trying to be a perfect mother while still pursuing the things she enjoys. On a sabbatical after teaching ESOL in the Sultanate of Oman, she is currently enjoying the kids and some precious "me" time without the pressures of work.