By Lisseth Aizpurua
The pandemic has posed unexpected challenges. For families, there’s a lot of concern and uncertainty about what this “new normal” means for the future of our children and how the pandemic will affect their emotional well-being, their social skills and their academic future?
Especially for elementary-school-aged kids, this new reality can be a lot to take in. One of the best ways parents can help nurture their interest in learning and build a healthy relationship with education—even during these difficult times—is by supporting the fruitful habit of reading. And with the holidays coming up and most of us spending more time than usual at home this year, the winter season provides the perfect time for grabbing a book—and encouraging our kids to read.
Why is reading so important for children?
Margaret Fuller famously said, “Today a reader, tomorrow a leader,” and numerous studies seem to support the idea that reading from an early age promotes the blossoming of strong communication skills and that kids who read often have better grammar and a richer vocabulary than those who don’t. According to these studies, the development of these abilities helps children perform better in a wide array of areas, such as school and social environments.
During childhood, the human brain takes in information much faster than during any other time in our lives, making this stage ideal for absorbing as much knowledge and useful information as possible. Reading can be a convenient tool and productive habit for our children, and here’s how parents can help them:
How can parents encourage kids to read?
1. Fashion a reading corner.
It’s common knowledge that kids love everything related to forts, tents and cozy secret spaces. Why? Because it gives them a personal space where they feel comfortable and safe. This, in turn, creates the perfect environment for them to relax and let their imagination and creativity roam free. Building a reading corner or fort that your children can relate solely to the activity of “reading” is an excellent way to help kids develop this healthy habit in an organic and natural way. Just pick a quiet corner of the house, one where they are not easily disturbed or distracted by the environment, and then fill it with books that are appropriate for them and related to topics they are currently interested in.
2. Audiobooks can become your new best friend.
Audiobooks are awesome for kids because they are able to understand much more content by listening as opposed to reading. Therefore, with audiobooks, children have access to a more varied catalogue and the opportunity to learn new, more complex vocabulary and grammar. Plus, audiobooks are also great for developing comprehension skills.
Timeless books with great audiobook versions: Anne of Green Gables, by L.M. Montgomery, Matilda by Roald Dahl and Charlotte’s Web by E.B. White.
And don’t forget that podcasts count too! There is a wide variety of podcasters out there offering excellent content tailored just for kids. Whether parents turn to podcasts for fun or educational purposes (or both!), the choices are endless.
Great apps to get started are: Apple Podcasts, Spotify Kids, Google Podcasts and Castbox.
3. Read books that have been turned into movies.
Contrary to popular belief, watching TV can be a highly beneficial and enriching experience for children, if done right. An excellent way to provide extra motivation when it comes to reading is to encourage them to read books that have been turned into movies or series, then watch the TV version and compare differences and similarities to the book. This technique works wonders when it comes to helping children develop critical thinking and analytical skills. Not to mention humans are visual creatures and film adaptations can enhance their reading experience because they help bring the book to life.
Suggested questions to have at the end of the movie are: Was the movie what you expected? Was the plot different from the book? Were the main characters as you imagined them? Do you prefer the book or the movie? And why?
Great titles to start with: Eloise by Kay Thompson, The Lorax by Dr. Seuss, The Jungle Book by Rudyard Kipling.
4. Make books part of their environment.
A key factor when it comes to kids cultivating good reading habits is to incorporate books into their everyday environment; they should be able to relate books to their life in an organic and natural way. A house rich in books should be the new normal for them. So make sure to have books around their favorite places, and to make them accessible by placing them where they can reach them easily when they feel like reading.
5. Get engaged.
It’s extremely important that you take your time to have discussions together, to ask questions and listen to all they have to say about the books they are reading. All of the ideas mentioned above only work if you get engaged and are there to enrich the reading experience of your little ones. So talk, ask, listen and repeat. Be there to nurture their experience, their reading ability and their imagination.
Key takeaways on how to raise an avid reader:
Make reading an organic experience. Reading should not feel forced; it should feel like a treat, a reward and a privilege. Something soothing and relaxing kids look forward to doing.
Set the example for them to follow. Read a lot and make sure they see you reading.
Books are not the only thing to read. Audiobooks and podcasts count too! Magazines and even recipes and cooking instructions are perfectly acceptable as well.
Know what your little one is interested in. Is your child interested in princesses and castles? Then gift them a Hans Christian Andersen Anthology. Are they into pirates and exciting adventures? How about Peter Pan?
Building a habit isn’t something that happens overnight so patience and consistency are fundamental. Gift your child the opportunity of learning and making the most of their time at home while traveling to faraway lands and meeting fascinating characters—all from the coziness and safety of their own living room.
Lisseth Aizpurua is a lifestyle writer specializing in habit-building and learning techniques and she has been an avid reader herself since she was in elementary school. For this reason, she vouches for the positive impact that reading can have in a person’s life and how important it is to nurture this habit since childhood. Today, she considers the ability to speak 4 languages fluently as one of the greatest gifts that reading has given her.
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