February 12, 2009
Start the Reading Chain
If you build the right kind of environment, readers will soon flourish.
It should be every parent’s goal to help children learn to read and fall in love with it because reading opens doors. It is braided together tightly with life’s results: scores in examination, job success, confidence in social engagements, accumulation of wealth and personal happiness.
Reading is similar to the development of an athlete. The skills to help a reader flourish will improve with consistent and meaningful practice. As parents and teachers, we must provide a warm and consistent environment for the skill to thrive, just as the athlete requires a field or gymnasium and consistent practice sessions to prepare him to win the game.
We need to continuously seduce our children to read more and more books until such stage when they would hate to go to bed at night because they can’t wait to unravel the mystery of the next chapter. One way to do this is to start your own family library.
A home library encourages children to read more. It doesn’t have to be a whole room, with elaborate or expensive wooden bookshelves to provide rich reading experiences. Expensive collector’s books aren’t necessarily the best way to capture a child’s imagination and attention. But a good family library does involve two important things: time and space – time to find reading materials that will appeal to everyone, and space to keep and enjoy them.
A corner of one room, with a bookshelf, adequate lighting, a soft mat or rug can be a starting point as you begin to build your collection. I have found that especially for young children, adding reading partners like a teddy bear makes the corner more intimate. You may also include a bean bag to enhance the coziness of the space.
Size vs. Variety
Instead of focusing on the number of books, keep in mind the special interests and preferences of each member of the family. Ask your children what they like to read, and try to stock up on their favourite subjects and authors. A small collection of well-loved and read books, thoughtfully gathered over time, is better than a large collection that remains in the shelves untouched.
Display & Storage
Of course, bookcases, shelves and magazine racks should be sturdy and well-built. Remember to place your young reader’s favourite books well within his reach. Look out for some whimsical, unusual storage ideas like a wagon, a basket, or wooden crates. There are no hard and fast rules in arranging books, but you could try grouping together books that have the same topics like animals, machines, or science topics. Another alternative is to put books of the same author together like Dr. Seuss, Eric Carle or Kevin Henkes.
Books and A Lot More
Just about anything goes in a family library. Fiction books from different genres (poetry, folktales, realistic fiction, etc.), a dictionary, an atlas, song books, magazines for parents and kids, newspapers, and even mail-order catalogues all have a place. Keep the ages and interests of family members in mind when selecting material, and get their suggestions. Make sure there is something for everyone at every reading level.
A Shelf of One’s Own
Children may want a place separate from the family library to keep books that have special meaning or value for them. By encouraging children to set aside their personal favorites, you are helping them express their affection for books, and showing them that you respect their reading.
Here are some tips for helping your children set up their own collections:
Find a special place for your child’s books. If your child’s room does not already have a bookshelf or bookcase, you can use a box, basket, or other sturdy container. Plastic stacking cubes work well and come in a variety of colors.
As often as possible, let your children choose the books they want to read and add to their collection. A book-buying trip to a yard sale or bookstore can be a fun alternative weekend family activity.
Give your children books or magazine subscriptions as gifts. And encourage them to give books as gifts to other family members.
For babies and young toddlers, choose sturdy books that can survive rough handling. Board books, for example, have thick pages that can be turned easily and wiped clean.
Display a few books with their covers facing out. An appealing cover might entice a youngster to pick up the book and take a peek inside.
Create a sticker or nameplate. It gives your child a sense of ownership. It makes him proud to own something and be responsible for it.
But beyond creating a space for reading, making time for reading is equally important to ensure that our children will love reading. Be involved. Do not wait for the right time because now is the time.
Where To Find Good Books:
Now that you’ve got a list of books that you think your child will enjoy, the next question is where can you get them? Top of mind answer: bookstores. However, as much as you would want to buy all the books that you want, it is just not possible for everyone. Sadly, books can be quite expensive.
If you would like to purchase books without putting so much dent to your wallet, you may go to yard sales, school book fairs, second hand bookstores and library sales. There are used bookstores that sell children’s picture books or novels for Rm5-7. The big chain of bookstores sometimes conduct regular warehouse sales. I have dug gold from hunting rare and treasured titles in the stack of books sold at a bargain.
You may also encourage your child and his/her friends to swap books they have read for books they haven’t. Or arrange a weekend book-swap among families from your child’s school or neighborhood. Book parties can also be organized.
Praising your reader at home will go a long way in firing up his/her interest. Examples of magic words that can go a long way are “Way To Go with this Book”, “You’re my Super Star Reader”, “You’re Catching On with the Difficult Words” and “Your Reading Voice is Exciting”.
Have fun setting up your library!
Credits to Chong Woan Rong, T3