At Choose To Thinq, we are nutty about reading. If we were on death row, our last request would most likely be “Can I finish this book?” (Perhaps this would also buy enough time for our revolutionary comrades to stage a daring rescue.)
“How do I building a reading habit in my child?” This is one of those ‘holy grail’ questions for a lot of parents. Parents and teachers always want children to develop one.
While becoming an active reader is fun, it can be challenging to initiate in many situations. Especially when books compete with other modes of entertainment and knowledge. Getting someone to fall in love with reading needs time, support, and proper wooing.
Based on our experiences as readers, parents, and uplevelers who study habits, change, and innovation, here are five specific ways in which you could influence the creation of such a habit in a child.
WARNING: These are tough for most people to pull off. But if you really care about this, read on:
1. Become a reader yourself
Practice what you preach! Young children learn by watching others, especially parents and other authority figures (as they get older, they will replace you by peers - so you only have a limited window, so hurry!). You are perhaps the best role model to show why reading is such fun, so hang out with books yourself.
2. Keep books around
Change your environment. If you have books of your own, let the children see them, touch them, leaf through them. Create enough temptation! Books are not for storing inside cold cupboards.
If you aren’t a book person, then keep going to libraries or bookstores. Let the colours and aroma of books, old and new, do the rest.
3. Hook them to a series
As Netflix, HBO and hordes of their consumers know, once you begin a series like Game of Thrones, it’s very hard to resist the call of finding out ‘what happened next?’. If you can get a child started on an irresistible storyline like the Harry Potter series or the Mahabharata, you have a good chance of keeping them hooked for long.
4. Play games
Find ways to bring attention back to books through simple games, both before or after they’ve read a book. For example, you could together play a short quiz about Harry Potter after they read one of the books. Or you get them to build a Sherlock costume or plot the route in Around the World in 80 Days. Help them connect with the story over and over again. (But don’t try and game this too much by connecting this to external rewards each time.)
5. Make reading like brushing
Don’t make reading a one-off, an afterthought, or just a vacation activity. Find out ways in which you can enable read at regular intervals, especially at the same place and time. For instance, every other day, a parent and child could read together for 10 minutes after dinner and before you (desperately) hit the TV. Or build the time-tested bedtime story.
6. (A bonus sixth!) don’t fret it
So the child hasn’t immediately fallen for the spell of reading, and will rather eat karelas than pick up a book. That’s fine (plus you’re getting a healthier kid, thanks to all that karela-eating!). Keep chipping away but without becoming so annoying that you actually turn off their interest forever. Perhaps they never ever will go weak-kneed at the sight of a book, but if you've got them from zero to a habit of reading once in a while, you'll still have done well.
OK, so may be these were not ridiculously tough.
But any long-term change in habits will be tough and require tough love. So off you go. These children will thank you one day - rest assured. Or even better, they’ll pass on the magic to another child someday.
Need support? Use the comments below to share your woes and challenges, and we’ll see if we can give you some more tips. Played matchmaker and got your own homebrewed potion for reading? Tried something like a ‘Summer of Reading’ Programme? Tell us and share it with the world.