Training a child to love reading has many advantages for the child. I can think of developing concentration skills, expanding vocabulary, and developing the imagination. I don’t know if I enjoyed any of these advantages as a child, but I fell in love with books mainly because in those days TV had few children’s programs on any one day! Books became a natural pastime, and my bookish parents encouraged reading.
You can’t turn the clock on PlayStation, 24-hour children’s programming, and any other time bandits of the 21st century, but there are five things you can start doing to develop a reading habit in children.
Just like learning a language, I would say the earlier you start, the better. Reading stories to preschool kids can help them learn to appreciate books as a positive thing, and they eventually want to read stories for themselves, or even read in your absence. There is a range of books suited to various milestones of a child’s cognitive stage, e.g., picture books, story books with coloring activities, and pop up story books.
Create a Routine
Regulating the time spent on various activities creates a routine that shapes a young child’s view of how life is lived. Set limits on how much time is allowed for TV, time spent on playtime, etc., and let reading be a regular fun activity.
Join a Library
As soon as your young one is old enough, sign them up at a library if there is one nearby. Borrowing books from the library can be turned into a fun outing to look forward to, and the atmosphere at the library will reinforce the message that reading is agreeable, it is important, and other people do it, too. Besides, having to finish a book before the next library visit is a real motivation for reading, not to mention that you can choose from hundreds of books. Of course, if you introduce E-books, a library outing will probably not be on the cards!
A child who reads will be an adult who thinks.
Be a Cheerleader
Parents and guardians are the primary drivers in developing a reading culture in young children. For a young child, it means the world if mom or dad approves of my efforts. You can encourage children by asking them to tell you about a story or a character, what they like or don’t like in the story. Encourage them to role play from the books, award points for a short essay, feign awe at their reading prowess!
Be an Example
When kids don’t see you sit down to read, chances are they will gradually give up reading for other pastimes as they grow older. So, let them see you thumbing through a book or magazine, tell them what you are reading, talk about the benefits you get from reading. Start a home library which you treat as a treasured spot and let reading time be some 30-90 minutes of quiet, uninterrupted time. If possible, invite your child to do their reading as you do yours.
I’m sure there are many ideas on how to develop a reading habit in children. These are just five that have worked with my circle of kids.