Want your child to read? Widen the net

by Ramya Manoharan | Feb 28, 2017

Cultivate reading habitWe’ve all been there. You eagerly plan a trip to the local library or bookstore, and within five minutes of getting there your seven year old is asking for your mobile phone so he can play games on it.

Or, as one hopelessly optimistic friend did, you may have planned a big birthday surprise for your nine year old daughter: the complete collection of Pippa Longstocking’s adventures for your 10 year old, eager for her to experience the joys of delving into the world of an unconventional girl. The friend says that the minute the child tore open the gift wrapper, she got such a look of disappointment on her face that her mother is certain she won’t forget all her life.

Explore different mediums of written content

This may plunge you into great depths of disappointment, but don’t give up just yet. For those who still nurture the faint hope that their child will someday turn to reading for pleasure, here is some information to fan those embers. You can get your child, the one born with a tablet attached to his palm, to read. That is, if you are willing to open your mind to exploring new mediums of written content (read graphic novels, ebooks, audio books, and dare I say it… movies).

Charles Dickens may have a thing or two to say about his beloved classic Oliver Twist being made into a graphic novel. But, if it will help immerse your child in 19th century England and explore the travails of an orphan boy with the most tragic tale ever told, one feels more kindly towards alternative ways of telling the tale, wouldn’t you say!

Healthy screen time

Another idea that you might have to come to terms with is that technology is not the antithesis of reading. For many parents holding a thick volume in our hands, crisp pages between fingers, and running our eyes across the printed word is what defines the pleasure of reading. Some even extol that unique smell of a book.

But, when we are talking about motivating a generation that could flip through a touch screen as soon as they could focus, we may need to consider the need for immediate gratification, a search and download option to curb their impatience, and the eagerness to operate through the medium they are most comfortable with.

“It’s just so much easier than handling a 600-page novel,” claims 12-year-old Keira Esias, who didn’t so much as glance at the thick The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes by Arthur Conan Doyle that her mother brought home from the library, but happily spends all her screen time (an hour a day) reading it on her Kindle. Keira’s mum, Mangal, said that she does not regret gifting her daughter the e-reader for her last birthday, and even allows Keira to extend her screen time to two hours during the weekends if she is spending it reading. “It has increased her stamina for reading longer books, and has made her a faster reader. I can’t complain about that,” Mangal said.

Movies based on books can generate interest

When it comes to movies, the path is tricky, but more and more librarians are ready to get children to watch the movie to get them interested in the book. Public libraries in Melbourne aired movies based on Roald Dahl books to commemorate the author’s birthday in September 2016 and found that more children were borrowing the writer’s books.

The bottom line is that all parents need to develop their children’s reading further is to broaden their own concept of books by embracing the variety of new media that children use.


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