Encouraging Independent Reading

This is not only about encouraging your child to spend time reading a book on their own. It is also about conversations based on books...


"She hardly reads. I decided to stop the library subscription," is a common decision that parents of children who don't spend time reading, often tend to take. While that seems to be the most obvious or logical course of action, the truth is that it only worsens the problem than remedies it. Think again, a child who does not read, clearly does not like reading for some reason. Cutting supply of books is akin to reenforcing their notion that it is ok to avoid reading.

A child who does not read, clearly does not like reading for some reason. Cutting supply of books is akin to reenforcing their notion that it is ok to avoid reading.
It is simply not ok to avoid reading

Reading for pleasure has immense benefits apart from being an active source of entertainment. Well written text enables readers to deduce meanings, make inferences, accumulate information that comes of use in several contexts and above plays a critical role in developing your child's self confidence. Books can even be a source of comfort. Reading about characters with similar personalities and their struggles and how they survived are some takeaways that books readily deliver on. Not having a reading habit simply means no access to all these benefits.


Children who don't take to reading, simply haven't found the right book to read. Eight year old Advaith (name changed to protect privacy), had a rich Enid Blyton collection at home. He did not pick them up to read after trying a few much to his mother's dismay. He accidentally stumbled upon the Geronimo Stilton collection in a friend's home and took an instant liking to it. He read several volumes from the collection, which at times worried his mother. She used to have conversations with him to try and introduce him to other kinds of books. Change happened but not overnight.


Conversations around books

Somewhere along Advaith's mother discovered that he enjoyed reading about space in the Geronimo Stilton series and loved a dose of humor. This discovery was made when he shared something that he had read with much excitement in one of their conversations about reading. Since then, conversations around the books that he reads at home became a norm. A year later, she discovered an excellent library and together they discovered the children's book series written by the renowned scientist, Stephen Hawking and his daughter Lucy Hawking. Book 1 in the series is George's Secret Key To The Universe. He is currently exploring this series with much interest. His passing phase with Geronimo Stilton reenforced a positive association with reading and made him realise that reading can be fun.


His passing phase with Geronimo Stilton reenforced a positive association with reading and made him realise that reading can be fun.

The children's books series written by Stephen Hawking and Lucy Hawking, made its way to the Young Readers' Club too, where he recommended this book for anyone who is interested in space. He also warned that the book could be high in terms of language as well as content for those who aren't very familiar with space! While this intrigued some, it made some frantically write down the title in their "To be read" lists.


Another young reader picked up Supriya Kelkar's American as Paneer Pie repeatedly but never ended up reading it. A conversation that the mother had with her daughter revealed that the plot interested her and that's why she kept picking up the book to read. But eventually decided not to because there were too many new words that she could not understand. That conversation revealed that she wasn't ready for the book. Picking up a dictionary after every 2 or 3 sentences is hardly fun as it completely destroys the flow in the story, making the reading experience less appealing. The same reader however was comfortable reading R.J Palacio's Wonder and even chose to recommend it to her peers on the Young Readers' Club.


A conversation that the mother had with her daughter revealed that the plot interested her and that's why she kept picking up the book to read. But eventually decided not to because there were too many new words that she could not understand. That conversation revealed that she wasn't ready for the book.

Once the right book is found, conversations around books become easier, thus helping your child to become a life long reader

Children like Advaith become comfortable discussing books across genres eventually and become open to trying new genres with an open mind. Conversations based on books can be with family members or friends or reading clubs. These conversations also provide room for the fact that a lot of work goes in to writing books and hence one must think twice before dismissing any book. One of the advanced readers who has been with the Young Readers' Club for two years now, shared her experience reading the book Wind in the Door, the sequel to Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L'Engle. She had enjoyed reading the first book in the series and felt disappointed when she started the second. However, she kept at it for a little longer and shared how it was worth the effort. The story, she said, took sometime to pick up, and when it did, it had become an enjoyable experience.



Conversations also pave the way to recognise and accept the fact that different readers have varied interests and hence books cater to a variety of people. At times, the way a reader presents a book talk, could help convincing a reader to try a genre that one has never tried before. Case in point is my own example. I have never been a science fiction fan but was tempted to try the book Time Travelling with a Hamster by Ross Welford after listening to young reader talk about it with much enthusiasm.


Group discussions based on books allow for sharing excitement about reading. In a group that has a mix of readers, some not keen on reading and others who love reading, there needs to be room for free interaction. Avid readers enjoy the time discussing books while the less enthusiastic readers begin to realise over time that they might actually be missing out on something.


For the less enthusiastic readers to be able to do something about what they are missing out on, they need access to a variety of books and a friendly hand to guide then when lost, to find a book that would match their reading interests. Definitely not a cancellation of library subscription.

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Both weekday and weekend batches are available at the Young Readers' Club. While this program is for the 8-11 age group, the Young Executives' Club program offers spoken and written communication skills development course for the 12-14 age group.

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