Parenting Tips

Getting Your Child to Read

If you are here, then we probably have already convinced you that reading is important for your child. But how do we actually motivate them to read? Sure, some children just love touching and looking at books. Lucky you if you have one of those. For those of us who are not so fortunate, these tips may be useful for you:

 

                1. Start reading

Yes, you, the parent, should start reading too. Children model their behaviours on adults. Seeing you read is a very powerful motivator for children.

               

                2. Establish a routine

Remember all that advice about establishing routines for children? It's the same for reading too. Make it a consistent part of their lives. Let them know that it isn't just a "back-up" routine for when they have run out of toys. They read because it's one of the daily activities which they enjoy (hopefully).

 

                3. Explore the book together

Reading time with your child is not about the book. Yes, you do want your child to look at the book, but reading time is actually more about the relationship between the both of you. So don't just hunch over the  book. Hold the book in a way that lets both of you establish eye contact while also looking at the book. You are not just reading, you are exploring a story together.

 

                4. Speculate about the story

Once again, reading with your child isn't just about going line-by-line. Children have very rich imaginations, so when you are reading with them, ask them what they think will happen next before you turn the page. Speculate with them and let them explore the possibilities of the story.

 

                5. Expand and relate

Talk about the story with your child and relate it to them. Did they like what the character just did? What would they have done? Don't just follow the story. Make the story about them too.

 

                6. Exaggerate when reading to them

Do you remember the professor who would talk in a flat tone and dead-pan voice? The one who would never fail to put you to sleep? Don't be that professor to your kid. Make the story come alive by changing the tone and volume of your voice. Add colour to the story with your facial expressions and body movement.

               

                7. Use picture / "wordless" books

Does the sight of a big lump of words turn your kid off? That's not a problem. Use picture or even "wordless" books! But how do we read picture books without words in them? See point 2 about speculating. Sure, the books may even be classified for a lower age range, but if it gets your kid to read, it's worth a start.

               

                8. Use songs and rhymes

For really young children who are only interested in eating books, you can start with songs and rhymes. They introduce new words which are easy to learn because they rhyme or repeat. They also teach your kid that similar-sounding words may have different meanings, teaching your child the idea of differentiation (not the math!). Your child will be much more prepared with better linguistic skills by the time you progress to books.

 

                9. Don't be preachy

Sometimes we might be tempted to use reading time as a time to teach our children "morals". Do it sparingly, if ever. Think about it: Do you enjoy being nagged? Or do you always only want to read self-help books telling you how to improve your life? Sometimes we just want to catch a break and enjoy reading silly novels. There is nothing wrong with that, and it is the same for your kid's reading. Reading at that age is for enjoyment, the "teachings" can come later. Chances are, if you have been consistent with ensuring good behaviour throughout the day, you don't have to specially emphasize it during read time.

 

                10. Let your child choose the book

This is related to the point above about not being preachy. Whether they choose a fiction or non-fiction book, letting them choose gives them an increased sense of ownership over their own behaviour. At the same time, don't nag them if they decide they don't like the book halfway into reading it. Haven't we all had the experience of regretting a book or movie that we chose?

 

In conclusion (the TL; DR version)...

1. Start reading

2. Establish a routine

3. Explore the book together

4. Speculate about the story

5. Expand and relate

6. Exaggerate when reading to them

7. Use picture / "wordless" books

8. Use songs and rhymes

9. Don't be preachy

10. Let your child choose the book