Tips to get your kids to read this summer

This blog doesn’t stem from my experience as an educator. I find that students do whatever they can to endear themselves to their teacher, so reading isn’t an issue in my classroom. But when I made my way home, I was confronted by two little boys who abhorred reading. They refused to touch books, preferred their iPad, and generally drove me up the wall thinking of ways to stoke their interest in reading. I continually bought books that began piling up in my children’s room, gathering dust and feeling unwanted.

My vow to myself was to get my kids to become readers this summer. My children are 6 and 7 years old, so I strongly believed that they were on the cusp of a time when they could pick up the skill quickly, if I was able to create a healthy reading habit for them during their break time. I was working with a tough audience, so I had to pull out every trick in the book to get them to read, but it worked! Here’s what I did-

Join a library

When I saw the lack of interest my sons had in the books I was buying for them, I realized that although they were young, they needed to explore various genres for themselves. While I was doing my teacherly thing picking up the best of Julia Donaldson, my boys just couldn’t see the appeal. We joined a children’s library nearby, and it was as though the world of genres opened up for them. From graphic novels to sci-fi, illustrations that were quirky to gory comics, my boys began pulling out books and leafing through them. Treasure Trove in Gurgaon has comfortable bean bags where children can relax and read, along with a toy section where you can also borrow toys. The boys enjoyed oscillating between the toy and book section, and we began spending over an hour per visit. I watched what my boys were thumbing through and got an idea of what they enjoyed when I heard an occasional giggle or chuckle. Bryce and Jared have now become voracious readers and I intend to keep up my library membership because it makes financial sense. It also builds into a sustainable mindset as you don’t keep buying more books. Another great part about joining a library is that a child doesn’t need to labour through a book he/she doesn’t find interesting. I allowed both of them to simply return books they found dull, it took the pressure off of finish a book that didn’t hold their interest. Since I hadn’t purchased the book, it was easily exchangeable and gave us an excuse to go back to our cozy library.

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Allow your child to choose the genre

I once had a fellow parent scoff at novels such as Dog Man, Bad Guys and graphic novels, as she considered them ‘non-literature’. I watched with trepidation as my elder son picked up a graphic novel as his first pick from the library. The graphic novel was part of the ‘Wings of Fire’ series with quite a bit of gore and fighting. He thoroughly enjoyed it. Every action artwork held him spellbound, and he kept running to me to show me illustrations that interested him or silly poop jokes in Dog Man. I worried about whether he would be able to transfer his interest to ‘real literature’ but it was lovely to see him choose to read rather than watch TV. We have made a deal to borrow one graphic novel for every two regular books from the library. In this way he gets a taste of reading a proper book and also has a gala time with graphic novels.

Keep age in mind

A mistake I made early on was to ply my son with Enid Blyton since I was a huge fan myself. I offered to read it to him as well but was met with staunch disapproval. The size of the book was daunting, and the lack of illustrations left my son cold. Once again, the library came to the rescue as I asked our friendly librarian to guide me towards some books for the next generation which I was not familiar with.

I have always enjoyed keeping Vygotsky’s zone of proximal development in mind- growth happens when we are given tasks just above our current level.

I kept choosing books that were easy enough to read but had challenging vocabulary.

21 days to create a habit

A popular belief states that it takes 21 days to make or break a habit. The summer vacation is a perfect time to take 21 days at a stretch to inculcate a good reading habit, even though the beginning may be difficult.

It was challenging for me as a parent to remember to remind my boys to drop everything and read for 20 minutes at a time. They wanted me to sit with them as they read through the pages of various books, and I had to create my own mindset of patience and set aside the time to enjoy the experience with them. For us, 21 days have worked like a charm, and for others, it may take longer. Don’t lose heart, you’ll get there!

Reading Rewards

Initially, have a reward system every time your child chooses to read. I know some who strongly oppose rewarding reading/study time as a child must study at this stage of life. However, as a parent struggling to get their child up to speed, my morals tend to fly out of the window to get stuff done. So, I shamelessly rewarded my kids with gummy bears every time they read a certain number of pages. Eventually, they forgot about the rewards as they immersed themselves in their book and would run off to do other things once done. 

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Another excellent initiative by our school that spurred them on to read was the annual Crowned Owl Ceremony. Children who maintain a library log and read 75 books throughout the year are exclusively invited to a PJ party in the school library. As they veg out with their favourite books instead of studying, they are plied with brownies or ice creams while being felicitated by the school management. My boys have been chugging through books, adding them meticulously to their library log once they finish a book. They shiver with excitement as the number gets closer to 75, their participation in the coveted Crowned Owl party almost secure

Set aside a particular time

Routine is essential for children, so set aside a particular time every day for reading, at least to begin with. After that, anything over and beyond is a bonus.

For us, we read early in the morning, right after breakfast, as everyone was calm and settled. We had nowhere to be at 8 am, so it was a great time to get through a few pages without the distractions of extracurricular classes or fatigue from a day gone by.

I hope these tips help you develop a great reading habit within your children or your students! If you have more suggestions, please feel free to share in the comments below.

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