Smartphones, iPhones, iPads, android- touch screens, tablets, videos and yes the ever dependent TV-the markets are full of them. Don’t forget, so also are books-all kinds of genre. While experts believe that a smartphone in the hands of a two year old is detrimental to brain development and too much screen time in general is bad for all children, nobody ever said reading books was bad for anyone-especially kids. On the other hand they advocate it. So it stands to reason doesn’t it that we try and inculcate the reading habit in our children sooner than later?
But tablets and smartphones are fun and stimulate the mind instantly. They are handy and easy for any child to understand them. So how do you compete with this fascination for new technology, the internet and the latest gizmos which have so completely taken over our lives and strongly eroded the importance and value of books?
Yes it does need more than a little effort to wean your children off them if already hooked. However it isn’t too difficult to channelize their interest into books either, since you as a parent have the power to simply make these devices unavailable and supplant them by making books integral to your children’s lives.
‘Reading to children or having them read leads to many benefits. It improves their brain functions, reduces stress, leads to better concentration and makes them effective communicators,’ says eminent Clinical Psychologist Dr. Saliha Afridi of Dubai.
So how does developing a reading habit work for a child?
- Infants even babies respond to lullabies and songs. They soon begin to identify the sounds
- Toddlers enjoy cloth books and song books of various textures and real pictures to see and hold. They quickly start to recognize the pictures
- Three to four year olds love rhyming books and songs with short stories. It develops their sense of rhythm and creativity
- Three to six and above- alphabet books along with picture stories in attractive fonts will expand their vocabulary and sense of story telling
- Reading improves academic brilliance- Children who are into the book reading habit do better in school and studies than those who aren’t.
- It enhances speech, language and vocabulary –Comprehension is faster, are able to communicate better and speak more fluently as there is constant accumulation of words and phrases
- It encourages creativity and imagination- Adventure /fantasy/ mysteries /real stories automatically let both soar
- It enforces discipline of mind. Improves concentration and attention span as it is a quiet activity
- Promotes self- confidence and independence. With more knowledge comes more self-reliance
- Different genres –fiction/nonfiction/picture books/ texts/ varied authors/languages give them new thoughts/ideas, plenty of choices that help identify their interests later.
- It sharpens their brains and improves their minds
Thus it is evident the earlier the child is introduced to the world of books the better. You will not only be helping your children hone their mental and motor skills you could also be instilling in them a love of words and learning that could last them a lifetime.
So how do you go about making reading a fun activity for your child ?
1) Every-time your child needs to be calmed, distracted or its attention diverted, reach out for a book and not a mobile device. Read to them, sing to them. As kids grow the characters in these books will – unlike phones and their ilk- remain the old and trusted friends they had fun with.
2) Surround yourself with books. It helps children identify with the reading habit faster. Books-attractive/colorful- lying around will pique their curiosity and make them want to know what’s in them.
3) Be a role model. However addicted you are to your hi tech devices make a conscious effort not to use them when your children are around. Remind yourself of the fun you had with books – however old and tattered they were -as a child and let them see you reading .Soon you will have them doing the same.
4) Read to/with them constantly- before dinner, after dinner, whenever – till they are able to enjoyably relate to the stories. It will help you rediscover the joy of reading as well. Don’t you remember the fun you had bonding with your parents/grandparents when they read to you? So help your children make the same kind of nostalgic memories you have of your childhood
5)Interactive question and answer sessions- ‘Do you see that banana? What did the three bears say? Why did snow white eat the apple?’ It will soon have them turning the pages themselves for answers.
6) Encourage them to identify objects and words in their natural surroundings -an ‘A’ on a sign board or a ‘tree’ in a park, with the letters/ words in their books. Matching words to objects and sound to sight will give them a thrill and motivate reading
7) Make it fun and laughter-filled. Dramatize, exaggerate, play-act the stories. Word games e.g. what rhymes with cat/mat/rat etc. -if you haven’t the time- with grandparents will make it an absolute fun activity. It will help develop the reading habit even while bonding with family
8) Introduce them to libraries. Encourage them to choose their own books. Reward them with books if they do well in whatever. Give books as gifts to whomever. Your children will soon get the idea
Thus with a little bit of effort, by creating the right atmosphere and the necessary environment you as a parent can easily reinvent the charm of books and bring ‘reading’ back into fashion once again.