Child Psychology and Behaviour

Magic words: Bringing back the lost art of reading

I remember the stories my dad used to tell me every night before bed. Akbar Birbal, Panchatantra etc. were an integral part of my childhood. They are the reason I started reading books. However, I wonder many kids today hear stories from their parents or grandparents? Why have we become so busy? So busy that we never fail to upload our kid’s dance photos but don’t find the time

to watch their performance?

Stories are such an important piece of our childhood. Do you remember how you watched the expressions of your grandfather, all curious and wide-eyed as he described amazing lands and far off kingdoms? In those worlds, anything was possible. The sky was the limit and magic was the norm. The boredom of reality could not touch you there in your world of imagination. Why would you want to deprive your children of that feeling; that astounding feeling of being all-powerful and invincible?

01-early-reading-habits-rich-illustrationsI agree our lives are busy. Our generation of parents have less time. But surely, we can at least give our young ones books to read. It suddenly seems as if reading has become an exotic activity instead of a common hobby. Very few people list reading as a pleasurable pastime anymore. Hundreds of Kindles are sold, but not many are actually used. How many of us still curl up with a paperback on a rainy afternoon? With the advent of the internet, the consumption of prose has surely increased but we barely ever look back to see what kind of content have we started consuming. Is the newest publicity stunt of the Kardashians all we can think of reading about?

My friends, if like me, you grew up with Nancy Drew, Famous Five and Secret Seven why don’t you provide the same companions to your children? Let Arthur Conan Doyle blow their minds too! Let Enid Blyton fill their brains with her incredible writing.

The biggest problem of the coming generation is how their parents and guardians regard books. We work hard and we want to party harder. But the time allotted to partying is small so we try to cram as much instant gratification into it as possible. Books don’t give instant gratification. They require us to think and explore and read between the lines, to fall in love with characters and make them come alive in our own world of imagination. But the pleasure they give lasts much longer than the mindless partying.

books 2There are many benefits to reading. It boosts concentration in kids and increases brain power. It makes your kids smarter along with building comprehension and vocabulary. Reading books also teaches the pleasures of slowly-building anticipation, the importance of lingering and reviewing, to draw new meanings and make and develop connections. It is with this vision in mind, that I’ve listed some ways to make your children interested in books.

  • Lead by example

So when you despair over your kids not reading, look at yourself first. Do you enjoy the magic of books? Or do you give excuses of not having time to read? Do you gush over books the way you used to do when you were young or do you wait lazily for a director to convert it into a feature film? Do not think your kids are dumb. They are smart creatures who will point fingers at you if you ask them to read books without doing so yourself.

  • Bedtime stories

Make bed time stories your exclusive time with your kids. Regale them not just with stories written by others but your own stories too. Tales of your childhood will be interesting and amazing for them. Brush up your story telling skills and weave magic through your words.Start Early:

The earlier your child starts reading, the easier it is for them to fall into the habit.  The sooner they develop a taste for reading the better it is, since reading if not developed as a habit at a young age can be one of the difficult hobbies. It’s like an acquired taste, the sooner, the better!

  • Books with pictures:

Start making your kid read with picture books or popup books. The colourful images will compel them to read further. Maybe in future, your child might turn out like me. I stopped liking pictures in my books as I grew older. I think it interferes with my imagination; not allowing me to think up in my head a particular thing described. Well, I know I’m weird but other kids love pictures so go right ahead with them.

  • Gift books:

Almost every year on my birthday, I’m gifted a book by friends and they are the presents I most look forward to. Gift your children books that you know they’ll enjoy. See how they become treasured and awaited gifts.

  • Build a bookshelf:

It will not just make your living room look stately and beautiful but the constant presence of books; seeing them every day will make your kids want to read them.books 4

  • Limit screen time:

This is extremely difficult. However, try to limit the amount of time your child spends in front of the TV, Xbox, laptop and the myriad gadgets available now.  In the longer run, it will also increase their attention span.

  • Don’t rush them:

Reading is not a race to finish the maximum number of pages in minimum time. Let them read however much they want to. Remember, this is not a chore to be done. It’s supposed to be a pleasurable activity; let it be pleasurable! Reading is fun. Don’t make it anything else. It’s a time for you to share the world of words with your child.

  • What if they don’t like it?

Well, in that case, don’t give them books directly. You could instead ask them to read small articles, creative pieces or some simple information about things, people, hobbies, sports, actors or hobbies they’re fond of. If your child doesn’t want to read Mahatma Gandhi’s autobiography, it’s fine! If he’s instead a musically gifted child, let him read about the famous singers of the world. Reading is meant to be joy! They will be able to find the true bliss only if they do not feel pressurized to do so.

  • Accept if your child hates it:

Not all people are made for books. Maybe your child has a different passion that drives them. It’s not necessary that your kid would love books even after you’ve tried all the tricks up your sleeve. Accept it. It’s possible that he may never love reading or start this hobby after he grows up. Let nature take its course in this case. Don’t push your kid too hard.

  • Write:

Try to write at least once in your life and encourage your child to try it too! If you both love books, you might find that you are capable of writing them too as I discovered after spending 18 years thinking that I was no story teller. (Thanks mom for bugging me till I tried!) You can write stories, comics, poems, a diary- anything. Writing is a form of self discovery. Get someone to read it and give feedback. Who knows? You may have some author blood in you.

Everyone wants to write. Everyone wants to have their words and stories read by others. It’s easy now with blogs and websites springing up left, right and center. But how many actually bother to read before they start writing? Follow the advice of the top authors. If you want to write good stuff, you first have to read good stuff. It will also help you to escape the ire of grammar Nazis like me. I’ve left books after reading 2 pages simply because I couldn’t stomach the pathetic grammar.

Books are such amazing things! They influence you more than any human being despite being inanimate objects. They can change opinions, rile you up, mellow you down, and make you laugh, cry or cower in fear. You could love their characters or love to hate them, identify with them or discard them as implausible. Books are truly like lovers. For the time we are reading them, it feels like an intense love affair with emotions running high, whether they are positive or negative. Books will remain your best friends forever. Because……………

There’s no friend as loyal as a book


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