Jackie Kennedy once said, “There are many little ways to enlarge a child’s world. Love of books is the best of all.” Books provide a wide variety of treasures for people of all ages, especially children. Stories take young readers on journeys, adventures, help them learn lessons or discover other worlds. The value of a novel and what it gives a child can never be truly measured. But, one of the main questions regarding books remains the same: how does a child become an active reader if they don’t like to read? The answer is easy and simple.
One of the most influential things a parent or guardian can do is to engage the child, starting when they are an infant. A great way to spend quality time together is when a parent reads to their newborn. Picture books with vivid illustrations can capture a baby’s attention, and stimulate their social development and thinking skills. Interactive picture books are also beneficial to older infants and toddlers. Some will encourage the child to look, point, or touch certain elements. Lastly, these types of books build vocabulary and word recognition. A baby will learn to identify images, sounds, and new words through their parent’s voice and interaction. Don’t be afraid to reread a book multiple times, either.
When he or she is older, there are many early readers and chapter books available to match any child’s interests. Parents and children can take turns reading aloud sentences, pages, or chapters. Reading aloud can help a parent determine their child’s reading level and comprehension. After finishing the selection, spend some time discussing what you have read, what might come next in the plot, and your opinions on the novel. As much as you can make a child an active participant in the reading, the more likely they will enjoy and remember the process.
Once you have finished a story, go beyond the tale and make it come alive. Complete activities based on the plot and characters, go on virtual or in-person trips to places that represent the setting, rewrite your own version of the ending, or watch the movie version, if available. For example, within The Magic Tree House series by Mary Pope Osborne, there is a story titled “Late Lunch with Llamas.” The plot revolves around Jack and Annie in South America, where they are on a quest to rescue a farmer’s stolen baby llama. Their adventures take them to the top of Machu Picchu and back. Some activities for extending “Late Lunch with Llamas” could include learning more about llamas, South America, and Machu Picchu, making a traditional dish from South America, or visiting a nearby animal park that is home to llamas. Books are more than just words and pictures; they open the door to many other opportunities to explore. When a child is starting to read, no matter what type of books, it is important to make sure they experience everything the story has to offer.
As a child grows, it can be harder to keep them interested in reading. With tons of distractions around every corner, sitting down and reading a book may not be appealing to a thirteen-year-old. To combat this, a parent can set an example of reading in the home. First, read a book in front of your child, or factor out a time each day/week for the whole family to read in the same room together. This time could be in the afternoon, evening, or on the weekends. Second, celebrate writers and novels. Have conversations on what authors you enjoy reading or the different genre of books you prefer. Make special trips to the library often with your child. You could also have monthly themes for the various books each family member is reading. These themes can be based on the holidays within the month, such as Earth Day in April. All family members could read an environment-related book. And finally, create a nook just for books and reading within your home. This area could be used by the whole family or there could be an individual area for each reader. This special space will aid in making a person’s reading experience just a little bit better.
Cultivating a generation of readers starts at home and soon after the child is born. A person can become a book lover at any age. Using these tips will bolster that love and help maintain it for a child’s entire life.