It’s the school holidays! For us, that means it’s time to hit the books!
Of course I don’t mean that we’ll be studying hard, as the phrase is commonly understood. Rather, I mean that it’s the time when we put aside work and other activities, and spend our time indulging in our books.
Reading was one of my fave pastimes growing up and it is a joy to me that my kids love their books. Well, except when they’re reading and neglecting their other tasks — and my instructions! Still, I remember the pleasure I got from immersing myself in a book and being transported to different places and cultures. And experiencing the magic that comes with that.
Both my older children are enthusiastic readers and I’ve frequently been asked how to get kids reading. As with so many siblings, Noey and Mei are very different. They have each taken different routes to reading and have very different preferences when it comes to reading material. Noey just fell into reading and has loved books from the get go. He was a fluent reader by 3.5 years of age simply because of his great desire to “read the words”, as he would put it. Mei on the other hand has more diverse interests, like art and running around. She started reading slightly later and only got really proficient towards the end of K1, when she was close to 6 years old. However I believe that when you start is not indicative of how good a reader you are or how much you will love reading. It is how you move on after acquiring the skill that really matters!
Here are some of my own tips on how to get kids reading:
1. Surround your children with books. To get kids reading, I think the most obvious thing to do is to have plenty of books at home. I must admit that I have a real weakness when it comes to books. I cannot resist buying books that I think are good so we have “a whole library at home”, as Noey once matter-of-factly related to his P1 teacher. Our collection of books is where my kids head to when they are bored. It is also where I point them to when their complaints of being bored start! It helps that TV is a very occasional thing at home and screen time has to be earned, so books are the default source of entertainment at home.
That’s pretty much me right there!
2. Read to them as soon as you can. Noey was the only one of my kids fortunate enough to have bible stories read to him by Papa even when he was in utero, and later, he continued to have books read to him while being fed because he was so difficult to feed. Lucky first child! I’m not recommending that you read to kids while feeding them — it was hard work and could get a bit messy at times. But you can start by pulling out books for babies to explore. Baby Nate, now all of 7 months old, only wants to chew on his books so he gets cloth books and board books for this purpose. Don’t expect to do much real reading when they are below 3 years of age. You might find yourself only reading a part of the story or talking about the pictures, and that’s ok. Eventually when the kids’ attention spans improve, you can read more of the text. For this, I also find that it helps to put aside a specific time for some daily reading so the kids have something to look forward to.
Books are for nom-ming, no?
3. Read to them even when they can read them on their own. I spent a lot of time reading to my two older kids as toddlers and heaved a sigh of relief when they started reading on their own. But in reality they still want me to read to them now at 6 years and 9 years of age. I don’t have a lot of time for that these days, with a new baby at home, but I hope to read to them more going forward. I’ve found these reading sessions useful for getting them started on books they are hesitant about or for introducing them to books of a higher reading level. It’s also great for sharing that excitement about a good read.
4. Place books where children can see and access them easily. As we all know, out of sight, out of mind. Have books available where your children can see and reach them to entice them to read. Set up a book corner or reading space where kids can get comfortable. If you lack the shelf space, regularly rotate your collection on your available shelf space to keep things interesting.
5. Make use of audiobooks. It doesn’t always have to be you reading — or the kids! Our National Library has a good collection of audiobooks (in the form of CDs) that you can borrow, and even more electronically through the Overdrive app. We’ve used these at home, and they are also great for the car if you have a long enough commute. Noey loves popping in a disc at home on lazy afternoons to listen to a story and I’m equally glad that it isn’t me reading it to him!
6. Make going to the library a regular fun time activity. We (or at least I) cannot buy all the books that I want, so I’m glad we have lots of wonderful books available to us at the our national libraries. We make a regular affair of going to the library to pick up and return our books every fortnight or so, and it is one of the highlights of our week to spend some time browsing the shelves and picking out what we want to borrow for the week.
Hanging out at the library together because it is the school holidays!
Older siblings can be good reading assistants too.
7. Be a role model. If you want your kids to read, read more yourself! This is also something I’m trying to do as I admittedly spend more of my time surfing the web and erm, watching Korean dramas these days. But books are my first love and now that Noey is on to middle-grade books, I’ve found myself reading his books as they can be pretty interesting! That also gives me something to talk about with him, which is great. I am a firm believer that books and stories are always better shared.
* This blog post is the second in a series of posts brought to you in collaboration with Friso. Do check out the Friso’s web page for more tips on how to learn and grow with your baby: https://www.friso.com.sg/en/learning-and-experiences. You can also visit Friso’s FaceBook Page and Instagram for information.