You would have thought that if my kids were read to every night when they were young, they would be avid readers when they grow up. I can tell you that in our family, we are living proof that this is a myth! When my little ones were one year old and fidgeting about, I would bring a book to him and try reading out loud in the most interesting way to capture his short attention. Then, I found out the best time to read quietly to babies and toddlers was when they were drinking milk. I made it a habit to read to them every night and even had to negotiate with my kids on the number of books. They love my reading even up till today. While I thought once they reached Primary 1, they should be reading a book on their own. Reading chapter books. But Primary 1 came and went, they were still not so interested in Chapter books and hardly followed a series.
Most kids around us are reading, some voraciously. Their cousins finished Harry Potter series at age 9. I was so impressed! I was getting worried about my kids who were not so interested in picking up books. Most of all, I worried for their English language. The only way to improve English is only to READ, READ and READ! No shortcuts!
I tried all sorts of methods to get them to read. Mind you, it was hard work and futile work! I printed reading charts, gave reward stickers, allowed redemption for a small gift upon reading X number of books, brought them to the library every 2 weeks, nagged at them, cajoled, encouraged, left books lying around, did book exchange, and many more. All these failed to get them to read. Sometimes, I wondered whether I was such a good story teller that my kids refused to read by themselves.
Finally, one day, I started to realize there was one common thing these avid reading kids have! They all have mums or dads who love to read! Maybe that is it!
I decided to pick up books to read and most importantly, read in front of them.
They did not start their love for reading immediately just because I read in front of them out of the blue one day. In fact, it was difficult at first because while I deliberately read in their sight, they were not reading beside me as they could not find the books they like.
Thanks to one $10 book voucher which we won in a draw dip that started the book reading journey. I told the kids that I was going to bring them to a bookstore, and each of them was allowed to choose one book they like. Upon hearing this, they were ecstatic. I was not sure why. But we ended up spending more than that $10 and we got 4 books of Geronimo Stilton from that bookstore. Maybe a crispy new book did the trick. The moment they stepped out of the bookstore, they started reading. I did not wish for the reading mood to die down, and hence, after they finished reading the books, we went for another 1 for 1 book sale at Popular and spent another $150 on new books. If new books were the thing that got them reading, I was prepared to pay for it than paying for English tuition fees!
While they were reading Geronimo Stilton books, I picked up my reading again. I was never so happy with books before. One good friend of mine retold a very interesting story about a family of 3 kids, which took a tragedy to reunite the family, not before each family member reflected on their attitudes. I decided to hunt down this book in the library and realized it was a super hot book and I had to reserve for it. The book is “Everything I Never Told You” by Celeste Ng. After finishing that book, I was hungry to read another good book. I chanced upon “When Breath Becomes Air” by Paul Kalanithi, a memoir of a doctor who had cancer and he wrote this book on doctor’s ethics and an exploration of the meaning of life before he passed on. It was such an awesome book that the hubby bought the book for me so that I can devour it over and over again. His English standard was superbly high and reading his book improved my English almost over night. Yes, it was that high standard that requires even the hubby who got Ace for GP and English to google up words with EVERY PAGE!
I began to read book after book and read beside the kids while they flipped through the Geronimo Stilton series. We had reading time on weekends and before bed on weeknights. I made it a habit to have them and myself bring out a book to read while waiting for our food to arrive at coffee shops, commuting home and in relatives’ houses.
When my boy got Popular vouchers for his birthday, I brought him to the bookstore to buy more Geronimo Stilton and managed to convince him to try reading Harry Potter book 1. To my relief, he LOVES Harry Potter and in order to entice his sister to start even one page of Harry Potter, I read the book too. You must know that from a fanciful story book like Geronimo Stilton to a small worded and no pictures Harry Potter book is a tough jump of level of reading for them. When my girl saw how interested his brother got hooked on to the book, she decided that she should also try it, and she got interested as well! This must be the best fruit of my hard work!
Now, my boy is into the 4th book of Harry Potter while my girl is reading her 2nd book.
Their reading chart which I leave 5 empty lines for them to fill up per month is now overflowing such that they have to write the books they read into the next month! I can’t be happier than this!
While some parents are lucky to have avid reading kids by nature, our kids’ reading journey had indeed come a long way! I truly believe that reading in front of the kids is the main thing that got them reading. Mind you, reading on the ipad like my hubby who reads voraciously on the internet will not help. We are our kids’ role models and unknowingly, they mirror us more often than we thought. If you are seen holding a PHYSICAL book everyday and reading at that corner, chances are your kids will do the same. Now that they have started reading, I do hope that they will continue to find the next book that interests them to make this a life long hobby.
How do you get your kids to read?