Raising Readers

One of the most precious times of the day has been that moment before bed when we get to connect with our kids. This time of the day was initially the most dangerous time of day – known as the (not so) ‘Happy Hour’. The hour of chaos as the kids get bathed and fed and one tries to run the energiser battery in said kid’s vocal-chords flat before bed. I would be screaming and shouting, burning the food… perhaps even
bursting into tears from exhaustion most afternoons.

My patience bottle was frequently empty from the madness of the day before. Inevitably by this time all the nuclear warheads Russia had been hiding were now sitting in my home, and I would explode! It wasn’t long before the stress of Happy Hour wore me down. I then decided we needed to wind down and not up at this time of day, and so my strategy had to change. After getting great advice I decided we would end the day with a story time.

Story times were very soon cherished! Kids on our laps and a storybook in hand. Inquisitive little eyes, wild imaginations and keen learners were the audience. My husband mostly won the toss at being the reader – I’d take the moment to steel myself away and enjoy some peace.

Story time was so successful it became leverage for good behaviour. The children absolutely delighted in it and we
were in deep disrepute when we missed this time together. Reading wasn’t a high priority in our family at first, little did we know the value every moment would add to our kids’ future.

 My children are all older now, and love to lie on their beds and read for hours at a time. Something of our treasured story time embedded a love for reading. A love for reading encourages a love for learning. It teaches empathy and values, communication and improves mental health. Someone said, “Reading is to the brain what exercise is to the body” – true story! It is not only important for every individual in society to read, but also to love reading and to have books at their disposal. Stats say about 8 million people in our country cannot read and do not have access to books. Their future is bleak! Those of us who have access to public libraries don’t only have the privilege but rather the responsibility to encourage a culture of reading.

“There are worse crimes than burning books. One of them is not reading them.”

– Ray Bradbury

Here are my 5 tips for raising readers.

1. Use books as a reward, not a punishment.

Never send them to their rooms to read as a result of bad behaviour. This will cause a negative association with reading and eventually form a mental block to reading – the very vehicle to learning.

2. Allow them to read books suited to their level of reading.

I remember hitting a proverbial reading roadblock with my son. He was at a phase when he just hated reading. His peers were already reading books with no pictures and he just refused. After some good
advice I encouraged him to get a comic, which he loved reading. He enjoyed the pictures and so forgot about the effort of reading and was lost in the book. It wasn’t long and he was back on par with his peers,
and loving reading again.

3. Make room for books they enjoy.

Find out what your child is into. Is it Paw Patrol
or princesses? And then choose books to read with them that speak to what they love. We have made a trip to the library such an exciting event that the kids now nag us to take them.

4. Read to them, read with them, and let them read to you.

Their attention span may not be very long at 2, so one-liner books with big pictures are great. As they get older allow them to ‘read’ to you. At 3 or 4 they most-likely can’t read yet but can use the pictures to tell the story. When they approach grade R they may start to recognise a few words. While reading the story to them you could omit the few words that they know, allowing them to say them and therefore be reading with you. Eventually they learn to read, and you reach the most boring stage of your treasured reading journey where you have to try not have a nap while they read to you!

5. Freshen up the book selection regularly.

They need regular visits to the library choosing age appropriate and reading level appropriate books. They will need your help! If you can, freshen up their home selection of favourites by swopping with
friends or giving them as gifts. It took a little while to change the home routine to include building this passion for books, but when we had settled into this
routine story time became more than a time of reading. It built a bridge between us, parent and child, that could be trusted with curious questions and long explanations of the day’s events. A very happy hour, indeed!

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