Raising readers means raising empowered children. And empowering kids in this way always starts at home. There are a few easy steps you can take to harness the power of stories, in the comfort of your own home:
Some children naturally enjoy sitting still for a long bedtime story, while others often find their attention wavering. Some kids take to books immediately, and others need a bit of encouragement. This is entirely normal. Each child’s experience of a story is different, and what they enjoy changes vastly as they grow older. But as Frank Serafini said —
‘There is no such thing as a child who hates to read; there are only children
who have not found the right book.’
Often, the idea of the “reluctant reader” makes people think that these kids are “less able” readers – which can’t be further from the truth. Kids who don’t like to read often include very bright children who have never connected with specific books, who speak very little English, or those who simply haven’t grown up in a reading culture. The state of literacy in South Africa include the fact that the books in circulation here are mostly in English, and based on Western lifestyles. And in a country as diverse as South Africa, the limited number of multilingual and multicultural reading material is often a big challenge – which makes it tough for children to connect with the current books on hand.
The bottom line when it comes to encouraging reluctant readers is to give them books and material that they connect with. We know that the more our children read, the better they get at it and the more they enjoy it. The first simple steps you can take to:
- Get kids stories in their mother tongue
- Read aloud to them regularly
But what if you’ve done all these things and your child can read, but chooses not to? How do you “switch” them on to reading again or for the first time? Here are a few suggestions − some of them from children who stopped reading for pleasure for a while, and then reconnected with it.
1. Focus on their Strengths, not their Weakness
Some kids find reading challenging, so it’s less likely that they will choose to read for pleasure. They often start to feel insecure about it, fearing that they’re falling behind their peers. One of the most damaging things that you can do at this stage is to draw attention to this. Instead, try to bring back the enjoyment of the process. Remember that people are intrinsically fascinated and connected to stories – whether it’s in movies, our grandmother’s tale, or telling someone something funny that happened to you. Children also understand the world in this kind of narrative. So find a story that they like. Do they prefer comic books? Gogo’s stories? Cartoons in magazines? Maybe they want you to make up a story for them!
Books and magazines with more pictures than words can also make reading seem like less of a chore. Read together only for as long as your child seems interested – then leave the book or magazine lying around so that they can choose to look at it later.
2. Bigger Exposure
Visit the library or bookshops and let your children choose books that they want to read. Reading something is better than not reading at all, so don’t worry if the books your children choose seem too easy for them, or are on subjects that you don’t think are important. Respecting their reading choices helps them to grow as readers.
3. Make it Personal
Most of the time, children associate reading with school work. This negative association is what causes dread in many kids. We also understand that access to fun, colourful books is not as widespread in South Africa as we’d like. In addition to our free multilingual stories, you can also write to your children. Leave them little notes in their lunch box. Leave them a poem, or a fun game on a piece of paper. Once you start making reading and stories a personal activity at home, children will start developing a positive relationship with reading.
The interest in reading and stories starts with at a very young age. Even before they can read, there are ways that you can start developing a love of stories in 1-5 year olds. The concept of storyplay is an easy way to get your kids to explore there imagination. Read them a story, and instead of ending it there, you can start a mini-play: Give them the role of one of the characters, and you can play another character in the tale. Act out the story and discuss the characters with them! This way, through play, your child will get to have fun exploring different roles and characters, stimulating both their imagination and their cognitive development.