This World Book Day, author Vaishali Shroff says they are reading and all we, as parents, need to do is expose them to a variety of authors and books/ magazines and let them decide what they want to read
Gen Next reading? I would say a resounding — yes!
Why? Parents are more aware about the kind of books that are available in the market. There is better access to books, both, by Indian and international authors, thanks to the Amazons of the world. There are better curated book stores and the proliferation of literature festivals across the country has helped tide the gap between the authors and children. Also, there is an amazing line-up of new and old children’s book publishers that are bringing everything from mythology to humour to fantasy to adventure to contemporary stories, to parents and children.
We cannot ignore the fact that smart phones and tablets are ubiquitous. And there’s no one else to blame but us. We carry them with us wherever we go, like an appendage – whether it’s for work or being connected or for entertainment. And with burgeoning edutainment apps targetting children and pre-teens, in addition to many schools that also encourage doing homework among other things on tablets (I hate it!), it’s hard to completely stay away from them.
Then, how do we get children to read? Our aim should be to make reading fun and not a stressful chore. It may seem tough, but it’s not. All we need to do is, well, mind our own business.
Don’t tell children what to read. Let them decide. We can expose them to a variety of authors and books and magazines but let them pick what they like to read. Talk to them about their interests and make suggestions on what they could read – but ultimately it should be their choice.
Don’t get caught up in getting age appropriate literature for your children because reading levels and book bands only indicate level of difficulty or reading ability of an average child at a particular age. This varies from child to child.
Read a lot yourself. We know that our children learn most things through observation so creating an environment where the family reads, contributes largely to their reading habits.
Carry books everywhere like you carry your phones. I have books in my car, my handbag, my kitchen, in the living room. Everywhere! My little one who is three, picks books that I’ve kept for him in the car and browses through them. He has read them to himself, made up his own stories, and now they are some of his favourite books. My nine year old picks up a book from the school library and reads it on the way home, which is a good 45 minutes!
Enough has already been said about reading to children at bedtime but I will still talk about it. Reading together before bedtime is not only healthy for the entire family but also keeps aside dedicated time for reading when the days look busy. You could also keep weekends as special reading days.
Don’t beat yourself up (definitely not the kids!) if they refuse to read. Give them time and space. Comparison with other readers is a strict no-no because then you can kiss the reading habit good bye and say hello to low self-esteem and other issues.
Help your child to pick books and be there for them. Be cool if they abandon books half-way through reading and don’t stop them from re-reading the same book over and over again.
There are so many ways of getting children to read and what works for other children may not necessarily work for yours and vice versa.
Like JK Rowling aptly puts it, “If you don’t like to read, you haven’t found the right book.”
Shroff is the author of multilingual, NCERT and CBSE recommended books, Raindrops (long-listed for Crossword Book Award 2013) and Ari by Tulika Publishers. She is looking forward to her first title on dinosaurs with HarperCollins Children’s Books India