Reviving the love of reading in your children
"We can read about animals that live in the sea. We can read the alphabet up a coconut tree. We can travel in a rocket so far out in space. When we read together, we can go anyplace. Let's read together"
- Jack Hartmann
Last Tuesday was Read Across Jamaica Day, and many volunteers took time out of their busy schedule to read for students at various schools across the country.
However, the sad reality is that there are many children who, through advancement in technology, have lost all pleasure in this necessary pastime.
Not only is it vocabulary building, but it can open up a whole new world for them.
One parent said that she had a great struggle getting her child to spend valuable time reading a book as the sole interest outside of homework seemed to be electronics.
Family and Religion reached out to educator, pastor, and counsellor Valrie Campbell James on how parents could aid in the learning process and make reading come alive once more for their children. She acknowledged that electronics such as tablets, games, and social media have done serious damage when it comes to children being focused - not just in reading, but for some, even in their schoolwork.
Stressing the importance of reading, James said that it tied into everything. "A child who doesn't engage in reading will fall behind in a lot of things. It is the foundation to success." For that reason, she is urging parents or guardians to find creative ways to make reading fun.
James said that although children spend the greater part of the day in the classroom, teachers should not be the only ones tasked with engaging them to read.
She said that parents can copy the Read Across Jamaica Day format and make it a year-long activity in their homes.
"Read with your children. Dramatise whatever is being read. Make the characters come alive. Spike their interest," she said.
Pointing out that reading didn't have to be limited to a hard-copy book, James said that parents could use the very things their children loved and get them to read from them.
"There are a lot of e-books available for download, and many of them are free. Find out your child's interests and download books to match. Getting them to read on their tablets won't be such a hard task," she said.
Other ways she advised to engage children is to make reading a family activity. She said that if there was more than one child in the home, then make it fun by offering inexpensive rewards to who could read the most books and share what they liked best about the books.
Sharing her own experience in the classroom, James said that when dealing with students whose attention span is very short, she uses creative means to keep the subject alive.
Parents, too, she said, should tie in real-life situations to the importance of being great readers.
"If they are in their teens and have lofty dreams of being a lawyer or historian, they should know from early, the vast amount of research, and by extension, reading they will need to do," she said.
James said that parents should not pressure their children to read as the last thing they want is for them to be resistant or take out a book, have it in front of them, but are just pretending to be engaged in it.
The best way, according to James, is to keep it real. Be open. Let them share with you their hang-ups about reading and you both can tackle them.
"Reading doesn't have to be a storybook. It can be comics, about games, etc. In fact, work with them as long as they are starting something. Just encourage it," said James.
Parents like to insist that their children read, and yet they themselves never find time to do the same. James said that parents should be an example for their children and it would be even greater if they both set aside time to read together.
"Have a book club in your home. For the month, read the same book and then have a lively discussion on your impression of it," James said.
She shared that there are no hard and fast rules in making great readers out of your children. The important thing, she pointed out, is to know your child as not every strategy will work in the same way.