I am fortunate to have a child who loves to read. This, to me, only makes sense as I love to read as well. But while taking stock of others in my life – parents and children alike – I find that the desire and drive has nothing to do with genetics.
When I was young I was all but ignored. When I had my daughter then, I was at a serious loss. I hadn’t a clue how to parent her as I’d never been parented myself. Yes, I had been provided for, for the first 7 years of my life, but not guided or taught or assisted in the exploration of the world. I had to make sure my own child would have the opportunities I was never afforded – time of a parent.
When Veronica was just 4 weeks old a very good friend of mine said: “Read to her. All the time.”
“But she doesn’t understand the words! Why would I read to her now? Can’t this wait a few years?”
“No. Start now. Here’s a book – Slippy Chicken Soup with Rice. Read it.”
So I sat on the edge of the bed, tiny baby Veronica drifting off to sleep “Slippy once, Slippy twice…slippy chicken soup with rice!”
Feeling rather silly. I kept it up anyway. Every night there was a story. Right up until she was 10 years old. Sometimes she’d read to me. Other times we’d alternate paragraphs. Serious bonding time. Serious make a child literate time.
In a world that is slowly but surely turning away from paper books and having faces glued to monitors and television screens, the importance of developing a passion for reading when very young cannot be overlooked. Reading is a habit and should be established well before they even know what you’re saying. There’s no forcing required – I can’t tell you how many horror stories I’ve heard from full grown men about their mothers shoving words down their throats and chastising them for being incapable.
If you can’t excite your child over the written word yourself, before you do any damage, consider a few options:
Sign him up for reading class. There are many well structured after school reading classes that aim to draw children to books. They help kids with diction, idioms and phrases. For young children, these classes can be fun with animated characters and pictures. Illustrated picture books, rhymes, silly songs and pretend stories all work to engage a young child into the joy of reading.
If your child has a favorite character, topic or animal, pick a series of books that features this character. For my son, it was Spiderman. Thanks to a love of wildlife, my best friend’s son latched on to some great chapter books early in his childhood.
Set a good example. A skill like reading cannot be learned in isolation. Do not leave all the hard work to the after school program. Pick up books that you think your child will like. Sit and spend time reading together, or reading separately, but in the same room.