Throughout this period of pandemic the Books and Desserts Book club has been organising a great IG live series titled “Stay home series”. The whole aim is to deliver great content from members while we are home. I was honoured to speak on ” Cultivating a Reading Culture in Children ” and thought I would share some snippets of the IG live session here.
Firstly you may ask why is it even necessary for my children to be readers ? are there any gains to being a reader ? and the answer is a resounding yes! Children who are readers end up having a positive relationship with academic books which means they perform better in school. Indeed, the phrase ” Readers are leaders” is totally true as it is hard to find any great leader or highly successful individual who is not a voracious reader. Reading opens up your mind and gives you wings, it gives you exposure and a wholistic education. For those who aspire to be Authors, you must read else your writing will end up being mediocre. Reading not only inspires writing but helps you identify bad writing. So yes there are benefits to our children learning to be readers. Here are a few tips to helping our children cultivate a healthy reading culture;
To cultivate a reading culture in your child the earlier you start the better. While it’s true that some people are natural born readers every child will love books more if they are introduced to them early in the day. So even while they are still in the womb and right from when they are born read to them and make it a fun activity. Some of my favorite books for my babies were “Brown Bear , Brown Bear what do you see?”‘ and The Very Hungry Caterpillar’ both by Eric Carle, ” Moo, Ba , Lalala by Sandra Boynton (it’s so funny and sends them into giggles!), “The Going to Bed Book” by Sandra Boynton and ” Where is Baby’s Belly Button”‘ by Karen Katz. These books were enjoyed by all my babies and even before they could say a word they looked forward to each page and even committed them to memory.
Make it fun and cosy
Reading for little ones has to be fun! Think about “tales by moonlight” and oral story telling which is part of our culture. Making it fun will get the children more interested, so when you are reading them a bed time story get into character and make it more fun . When they start reading themselves look for a fun topic to keep them interested. You can also make them a cosy reading nook… it could be something as simple as a nice sofa just make it colorful and inviting so that your child looks forward to story/reading time.
Let them learn while having fun
When they enjoy reading then learning is easy, so buy them books that will also teach them stuff. It could be a range of things from numbers , the alphabet, being kind and empathetic, animals sound, or even learning to bake a cake! There a loads of books which achieve the dual purpose of entertaining and teaching lessons which will help our children fall in love with books. a few of examples of such books are “‘The Snail and the Whale ” by Julia Donaldson where children learn about helping their friends, ” A Fun ABC” by Sade Fadipe where children learn their ABC and ” Fun day at the Museum” where I teach children about Nigerian History. Other books that teach in a fun way are the ”Horrible History Series” which teaches history, “‘Good night stories for Rebel Girls”‘ which teaches about extraordinary women in history and ” The Ultimate Girls’ Body Book” which I bought my daughter as she approaches her teenage years.
Buy them books ( find out what books they like)
I guess this may seem like stating the obvious but it need to be stated nonetheless. Children are more likely to read when they are surrounded with books, especially when they are books they actually like. Growing up I loved books like Malory Towers, Adventures of Tintin and Famous Five, however though my daughter enjoys Malory Tower none of my children enjoyed Tintin or the Famous Five series . Therefore now I look out for book on topics they enjoy. Therefore if you have a child who loves football then buying him books about football clubs is a good idea or if she like cars then a book about cars would be exciting. In the same way if your child likes a particular cartoon character then getting a book about that character would be a thrill. Also, take them book shopping with you so they can pick out their own books and be part of the process, as a child is more likely to read a book they picked themselves. This does not mean you should totally abdicate the role of picking books to them as a parent you are also in a good position to know they kind of books your child should read. When I was child my home was filled with books and I am sure I read everyone. There is however a caveat , please censor what kind of books your children have access to in the house, this leads me to the next tip.
Be mindful of the books they have access to
As adults we need to ensure we know what books our children are reading as a book with a seemingly innocent cover may have a lot of adult content and vice versa. I remember buying a copy of a Pacesetter novel titled ” Evbu my love” my father saw the title and immediately confiscated it for thorough censorship (lol) once he was sure it was suitable for a girl my age he gave it back. Therefore we need to act as the family censor board for any books, movies or games that our children read. If you do not want to go through the content (though I advise you do) then go online and search for reviews on books. It is also advisable that the books we read are kept out of reach or are suitable for family reading. This is because many times children inadvertently or out of curiosity go through our own books. As a child I read “To Kill a Mocking Bird ” by Harper Lee because I found it on my mother’s dresser, thankfully it wasn’t a book with explicit sexual content but what if it was? On the other hand I remember visiting an Aunts house and all the magazines in her house were “Ikebe super” and “Dauda the sexy guy” definitely not recommended reading for a little girl.
Introduce them to books with relatable characters
While we must expose our children to a variety of characters and cultures through books we should also buy them books with characters they can relate to. Characters that look like them, eat the same food they eat and have names they know. We must give our children books that tell our own stories, which was why I decided to start writing children’s book. Nowadays we have loads of books by Nigerian authors Some cool examples by Nigerian authors are” Tobi Bakes a Cake” by Olubunmi Aboderin Talabi ” What is Down Syndrome” by Tonye Faloughi-Ekezie” , ” I am not Naughty” by Basirat Razaq -Shuaib , ”Mayowa and the Masquerades” by Lola Shoneyin and “‘ First Day at the Big School”‘ authored by Chioma Momah.
Introduce them to different genres
Reading is not just about fairy tales so take time to introduce them to different genre’s like history, historical fiction, career development , cuisine, academic, fiction, folklore, poetry, biography , science fiction , cartoons etc. You just never know what they may pick up off the pages of a book.
Try recipes too
What do recipes have to do with reading you may ask? A lot! You children love helping mum bake so try getting them to read out a recipe that you can all try them together. This step by step reading needed for recipes teaches you child the importance of processes and how to follow instructions.
Take them to libraries and book stores
Seeing loads of pretty books all nicely arranged will make anyone fall in love with books. Whenever I am in the UK I love to take my children to libraries as they have beautiful children’s section and fun activities like book readings and play dates. In Abuja there are a few local libraries and loads of lovely book stores so try taking the children to visit to get their books and get reading.
Engage them in book challenges with rewards
When I was in primary school once you finished a book you could get sweets from the Head mistress, this gingered us to read as much as we could. You could try something similar by allowing your little one pick a treat for every 5 books he reads.
Model the behavior you want them to see
When it comes to reading when your child sees you love to read they may do the same. Studies have shown that over 70 % of avid reading adults grew up with parents who were also avid readers. So if you are not a reader and you want your child to cultivate healthy reading habits then it’s not to late to start. You can join a book club or become your child’s reading partner where you both read new books and discuss what you have learnt.
There are other tips that can help your child cultivate good reading habits , tips like cutting down on TV time, allowing them read electronic books and so much more! Please share your reading tips in the comment box.