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14 Ways to encourage your children to read
1. Turn reading into a habit.
I get my children involved in activities that require books or reading materials. I practise this every day to make sure it becomes part of their life.
2. Be extremely excited when there’s a book fair.
I will tell them news about book events, like a book fair that’s happening every year. And, don’t get too excited when you receive an SMS about a sale at your favourite departmental store which has nothing to improve your child’s reading level.
3. Cut off the Astro subscription or switch off the TV.
I can guarantee you that no one will cut off their Astro subscription. If you would, it would get your children off the couch and into new and more productive activities like reading.
One morning, I tried not to turn on the TV for my children. Guess what? At first, they yelled at me (of course, they got disciplined for that. I am a strict father who doesn’t go soft with his children.) But, then they started to play with their toys. They even went to get some books.
Everything changed after that. Now, they don’t even bother to turn on the TV when they are in the living room. They aren’t attached to the buzz of the TV anymore. Freedom. They have their toys and books, and they have each other to play with or for company.
I myself have not been a regular TV watcher for four years now.
4. Go to the zoo with an animal book.
For our first visit to Zoo Negara with my son, I bought a book about animals. So when we met the orang utan, rhinoceros, giraffe, or even elephant, I simply matched them with the animals in the book.
What happened after that was the enthusiasm of constantly showing me, in the book, the animals that he had seen. In our house, he keeps the book by his side. He keeps talking about how big the elephant was, compared with the one in the book.
5. Turn off the TV at prime time.
In our house, we turn off the TV at around 8pm and we sit with our books. For at least 30-60 minutes, my full attention is given to teaching them to read. Let’s forget about news and everything. The world isn’t going to end if you don’t watch the prime time news.
6. Buy an iPad or iPod book and interactive apps.
There are a lot of book and interactive apps for children. Most of the awesome apps are as cheap as US$0.99 – that is about RM3.50.
Some say, if we embrace the technology, we have an advantage over our competitors (well, consider other families as your competitors, in this case). These are the devices that will catapult the children’s education miles forward.
7. Eat books, sleep books, drink books.
Change the rules of your family: We take a book with us everywhere we go, from every corner of the house to every place of interest we visit. Turn the reading habit into everyday routines.
8. Book, book, book.
Buy books, or something that indirectly contributes to reading a book. For a start, I bought books just for collection. Then I bought a book rack, then another large book rack. Eventually, I realised that my house was full of books. From there you can inculcate an interest for books among your children.
9. Birthday gift is a book.
I can imagine how much my children would frown if I were to buy them only books for their birthdays. So, instead, every year, I buy two special gifts: One is a book – the compulsory gift, and the other is a gift that is not a book.
The reason I buy a book for their birthday every year is that I want them to love books, and I want them to have books on their special day.
10. Buy them a cheap book for on-the-spot reading when buying groceries.
When they follow us to buy groceries at Tesco or Carrefour, I will buy a book for them. Then I ask them to read it in front of me. If both you and your wife are doing the grocery shopping, one person can concentrate on the groceries while the other tends to the children and turns the shopping experience into a learning one.
11. Book is the new toy.
Think of a new book as a new toy. You should prefer books over a remote control car or Play-Doh . I know that your kids’ life will be like mine. In my family, my parents would buy books first. As for toys, my father would only buy it if it was a tool for helping in my development and making me think.
12. You need to read every day, too.
I make it a point to read every day so that my children will, too. Remember, if you aren’t interested in reading, then don’t blame your children who hate reading.
13. Write a book
Tired of stories that don’t follow your own interests? You can draw and write your own story. I am good in drawing and definitely my children’s super heroes are the main characters of my stories. This is how I get them interested in reading stories.
14. Go to a bookstore every time you visit a shopping mall.
Why not make a regular visit to a bookstore every time you visit the shopping mall? I would definitely make a stop at MPH, Kinokuniya and Popular. The bookstore offers an expansion of books to read for hours. Plus, the people in the bookstore who are avid readers will inspire you and make you want to read, too.
We, parents, need to put in the effort to encourage our next generation so that they appreciate reading and know how important it is to build a knowledgeable society. Hopefully my suggestions will encourage our children to read.
Mohd Mujahid Ismail