What if I were to force you to eat food that you absolutely hated? If I were to invite you home every day and serve this one disgusting ingredient over and over again what would your reaction be? Even if I were to dress it up in many different ways—(for instance in curry, gravy, soup, salad or smothered with onions) would it make any difference to you? Chances are that you would still hate it. Chances are that you’d never want to see me anymore and that the dart board in your home would have my picture on the bulls’ eye.
The lesson here is simple: we love doing things we enjoy and if we don’t enjoy it, we don’t want to repeat that experience. In fact, we’ll do anything to avoid it. This understanding is what you as a parent should bring to the table when teaching your child just about anything. And it specially applies to reading. So how do you make the reading journey more enjoyable? The very first step would be to create a positive reading ritual. A positive reading ritual doesn’t necessarily involve actual reading. It involves creating a rich experience that revolves around books. It is something that you do every day with your child relating to books, but brings a smile to your child’s face. Over time, these happy memories will make your child a natural reader. Natural readers are those who love learning and who embrace knowledge. It’s a great habit to have and the best gift you can give your child.
Ask every good reader and you’ll find that there is a beautiful and positive association with books in their past. I have a friend whose parents bought her books that could be read at bath time. Every day, they’d run a bubble bath, pop her into it with a colourful, rubbery, waterproof book. She remembers the laughter, the scented soapy bubbles and of course, the intriguing stories. My own positive reading ritual involves a book that had an interesting story for every day of the year—365 stories. My parents would tuck me in and read to me every night and it was always the story that was assigned for that day. It certainly made me feel important and all grown up! I loved listening to their voices, so soft, relaxed and lyrical. I enjoyed the closeness, the feeling of being cherished and cared for that the experience brought. And that’s what I believe started my life-long love affair with books.
Creating a fun environment for your child to enjoy is simple and very rewarding. Here’s how you can do it.
Pick the perfect time: Some kids are so chirpy and energetic in the mornings while others are late bloomers or tend to perform better after a nap. Picking the right time to read to your child is extremely important. Ensure that you do so when they’re in the right frame of mind and they’re most alert. Stick to this reading schedule as closely as you can.
Set the stage: Create the right atmosphere and attitude to reading. When you visit a temple/church/mosque to pray, what is the first thing that you do? You notice the hush in the atmosphere, you lower your voice, you tend to still your thoughts. It’s a similar reaction when we enter a library. Reading at home should be treated in much the same way. Teach your child to respect and revere books. Touch them gently, open them carefully. No ripping out pages, no colouring with crayons or no dog-earing allowed. Instill a healthy respect for the written word. Point out that these aren’t just lifeless pieces of paper, but someone’s thoughts, the treasures of countless brilliant minds.
Make reading FUN!
Challenge yourself to find as many fun, unique books as you can for your little reader. These are available online, even in select book stores in your city. Today, books are like toys. There are vehicle-shaped books with wheels that your toddler can push through the halls, the kinds that squeak when you press a button, ones that play music or light up when you open its pages. The fuzzy and scented books will introduce your kids to a world of colour, smells and textures. If you’re enrolling your child in a pre-school, you might want to ask if these kinds of books are available and check if the teachers have a fun attitude to learning. Do you have a special memory associated with early reading? What kind of impact has it made on your life?