3 July 2015

How to get children to love reading

My last post was on books that my boy has loved. But how did he get to be such a prolific reader? Really it felt like it 'just happened', but here are my guesses at what happened along the way to encourage it.

Take one baby

At six weeks old, we began reading to our babies before their sleep times, purely because it was delightful. It was only on a film camera in 2003 when Jack was a baby, but imagine our photo of me lying on a bed next to him, reading from a little cardboard book I'm holding up. ("Take one baby, put him in the bath..." I read it so many times I can still recite it.) His big blue eyes are open to their maximum expanse, and his mouth is wide open in the biggest baby smile ever! His legs are a blur, because they're kicking with excitement.

For a while we had to stop reading to Jack before sleep time, because he got so excited it kept him awake.

Anna was the same.

Life was basically a fest of reading for years, with three books before every sleep time. As the books got longer, this was sometimes a drag and we would almost fall asleep doing it. We had our eyelids prised open by little fingers. Yet was always a treat to move onto more grown-up books, instead of the more babyish ones we'd read a thousand times.

There were also three songs before every sleep time, and a weekly Mainly Music session at the local church. I don't know why, but it feels like the rhythm and melody involved helped with reading.

When Jack was about three I started explaining things like the sound W makes (W for Winnie the Pooh, of course.) I'd get him to point out all the Ws on a page and tell me the sound. Then J for Jack, and other letters crept in. That is about as difficult and onerous as learning to read got, i.e., not at all.

Once he got to school his teacher told me she'd never known a child learn to read so easily.

When he was six he started reading Harry Potters. From about then on he didn't want us to read to him anymore. Anna is eight and we still read to her, but not as much as she reads to herself.

Time, not money

Was it expensive? No way, we were paying off a mortgage. Isn't that what libraries are for? Our local librarians are practically extra grandmothers, they have seen our children so much. We are top of the Heavy User category. However, the book cases still managed to be laden with second hand books and gifts.

Was it hard work? A bit. I do find it hard to constantly find books to feed my boy reading-beast. A book a day is nothing to him. That's why I love it when he discovers series of books, because it's a brainless way to find more for him. Also, getting a Kobo has been excellent, because we can go online and get free books instantly. Our local library has an exploding range of ebooks available.

No television, lots of books

Oh, and what I suspect is a MAJOR point: we had, and have, no television. Computers have started to bring screens into our life in a bigger way now, but we fight them valiantly. At present our iPad is at my husband's workplace, and it's staying there for the near future, safely out of reach.

We love having no television. It is incredibly easy.

Love reading yourself

We read, full stop. Every day, for pleasure. Mainly books, in the lounge, in bed. We talk about what we're reading and how we love it.

Is reading so great?

I can see a downside of too much reading: less of other things. Staring into space. Making stuff. Gardening. Doing housework. But for stepping inside other worlds, and therefore expanding your own, I think reading is the ultimate.
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