How To Teach Kids to Love Books

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Me, reading with Angie and José in Ecuador
(c) Picture by Ross Garland

 

I’m not a big “cause” person, but I’ll admit, “Encouraging the love of reading” is my cause. If there was anything I was to fight for, this would be definitely one of them. That’s why I’m currently in Ecuador, volunteering for an NGO that promotes literacy and art. 

In Ecuador, education does not put a lot of emphasis on creativity. When we asked children what they wanted to be when they grew up, most common answers were a “police officer” and a “doctor”. There were no aspiring writers or poets, musicians or singers, no painters even.

The public library here in Baños includes a total of three rows of bookshelves, which resemble the excess shelves you would see in the back of a library in the US or the UK. I’d a long chat with Mayra, the librarian. She told me what I’d already suspected. Majority of people here don’t read for pleasure. They don’t read any more than they are required to read for school or work. 

I’m generalising of course. I’m sure there are people here who love books as much as the rest of us. But this is the general impression of the society. Our mission as volunteers is to help these children with reading – for some, it may mean simply improving their reading skills, for others it may mean learning to read for pleasure, or to get immersed in a book and its characters. 

It is, I believe, an essential duty of every adult who has a child in their life to encourage the love of reading. Especially if you are a parent or a teacher. I don’t have kids, but I try to do this for all the children in my life (because sadly, most of the time, their parents don’t). 

In this post, I want to share some steps that I believe work for encouraging children to love books. Some of these will work for adults too. 

Six Steps to Teaching Children How to Love Books

  1. Stop forcing them to read what you think is good for them. I know you want your child to be precocious and read books that will make them do better in school, or improve their vocabulary, or whatever. Stop. Let them read what they want to read. If they are not yet a reader, get them books for the stories they would enjoy. 
  2. Be patient and get them to try different things. If your child currently thinks books are boring, you are not going to change their mind overnight. It may take months or even years to do so. You have to be patient. Give them an opportunity to discover their own reading taste. 
  3. Read with them. The one thing all children need the most from adults in their life is time. Sit down and read with your kids. If they are too young to read, read the stories to them. If they are able to read, share the reading process. Get them to read a page, then you read a page. It will help their reading, and your relationship with them. 
  4. Lead by example and talk to them about books. The best way to teach anyone anything is to lead by example. If all you do is watch TV, don’t expect your child to take your word that reading is good for them. Read yourself. Talk about your favourite books. Talk about how books have impacted your life.
  5. Take them to a public library, and get their own card. Public libraries are a treasure house. Especially for children (or adults) who are still discovering their taste, and experimenting. They can try all these different things, and just wandering the shelves may led them to something they’ve never heard of before. Turning a corner from the children’s section, they may end up in classics or science-fiction. Public libraries are a labyrinth of mysteries, where every person looking will discover their own answer. 
  6. Take them book shopping, and let them pick their own book. Help children start building their own library. Get them to enjoy the process of selecting a book. Why would they pick one book over another? What attracted them? Pay attention to their taste, and as it evolves, so that when you do buy them books for present, you know what to get them. 

 

 

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