We all know reading and writing go hand-in-hand. In fact, reading is essential in building a strong foundation when it comes to writing. The best writers are known to read excessively and variedly – giving them a natural flair for words. It’s my dream for all my kids to be great readers. But it’s not possible to force the books on them or ‘make them read’. (Sometimes I wish it was possible!)
I consulted Jan & Elly, the English Language school about this. It is something that every one is advocating, but how do we go about it? Here are their tips!
- Read a little every day
The effects of reading can only be reaped over time. Reading daily can seem like a chore for many children, especially when school gets too hectic. However, daily reading does not have to be done over long hours. Even if it’s just 15 minutes, the time still counts. Whether your child manages to finish a chapter, or just a few pages, a little exposure can go a long way. Just like any new habit, it takes discipline to commit. Get them to think of it as part of their daily routine. They wouldn’t skip a shower no matter how tired or late it is. In the same way, don’t let your child skip reading. Stick with it and you’ll be surprised at the difference it makes in the long run.
- Keep reading material readily available throughout the house
Sometimes, a magazine left lying on the table can intrigue us to pick it up and flip through the pages even though we had no intention of reading it. If you notice, we are often forced to read ads at MRT stations or bus stops, not necessarily because we are interested in the content, but because they are strategically positioned.
The idea of leaving books, magazines and newspapers in prominent areas around the house is based on this same theory. By making it readily available and visible, we make it easier for our children to have access to books – even if it’s simply to browse. Over time, encourage them to read by asking them questions about the book, or sparking conversations on the topic.
This will teach them that reading can take place anywhere, and is not limited to school or academic situations.
- Make trips to the library or bookstore
In the past, family visits and school trips would often include trips to the library. However, these days, many parents feel strapped for time bringing their children to the library. For busy parents, it is understandable that a library or bookstore can sometimes feel overwhelming. However, going in with a purpose and setting realistic goals is the key here.
One way to make your library or bookstore visit worthwhile, is to decide beforehand what your purpose is.
For example, if you intend to have your child read four books throughout the week, stress that you have 30 minutes and your child can choose two books, while you choose the other two. That way, you control the time spent choosing books, and still control the quality of books your child reads.
In fact, if you prefer e-books and audio books, you won’t even need to step into a library at all these days. The National Library Board of Singapore has a whole collection of online reading material that can be virtually borrowed and synced across all devices. If you’re running low on time, experiment reading e-books with your child. It may take a little getting used to, but it still counts!
- Always carry a book
Do you sometimes find yourself in situations where you end up just waiting around – for example at a clinic, waiting for a bus, or for a ride? If so, this is the perfect opportunity to instil in your child a habit for reading.
Make use of idle situations to read something. It could be a book, or a newspaper. Again, many children love spending time on iPads or phones. Instead of playing games, encourage them to read up on the news, or download e-books to read on-the-go.
- Read in phrases, not word-for-word
This was a tip I remember reading somewhere, and it resonated very well with me.
As a child, I often read chunks of passages word-for-word, not in phrases, which hindered my comprehension of the overall passage. And this is a trait I notice in many children. When asked to read passages, they sound out each word as individual words, rather than phrases or sentences. Because of this, answering comprehension questions are often a struggle as children lack a big-picture understanding. Instead they end up looking for keywords in the passage to match their answers with.
When children read this way, they tend to find reading a chore. To get your child interested in reading, practise varying your tone when you read to your child, or when you read things aloud. Stress phrases instead of individual words, so that children can mentally sound out the rhythm and flow of sentences.
- Observe and record
A lot of times, we miss things around us because we do not pay attention to our surroundings. The best writers observe and record their thoughts, experiences and feelings to the point that they are able to describe the exact same thing in a myriad of ways.
For example, the phrase “raining cats and dogs” must have come from somewhere. If we think about it, the bickering of cats and dogs must have sounded so thunderous, that it resembled the sound of heavy rain, thus drawing a parallel. By being observant, our senses are heightened, making it easier to think creatively.
Putting our thoughts into words, be it simple or complex, is a great way to develop creative thinking, and good writing. Encourage your child to observe and be alert to the things around him. By being diligent about recording these thoughts and feelings, your child will soon find his own voice when it comes to writing.
- Finally, daydream a little
A little mindless dreaming never hurt anyone. In fact, letting your mind wander every now and then can be beneficial in honing that creative streak. After a day of hard work, let your child relax with a good movie he enjoys, or simply chat with your child. Many children lack exposure to good conversation, which is crucial not only in building confidence, but articulation when it comes to writing.
I hope these tips would get you that step closer to bookworms in your home! Here’s the most active bookworm in our family! Noteworthy: There’s a playground just next to this book exhibition! Every other kid is at the playground but him! I’m a very happy mummy! hahaha!!
*This is a sponsored series of conversations with Jan & Elly English Language School. Jan & Elly is a supporting partner of Singapore’s Speak Good English Movement (SGEM). They have been awarded the “Best of the Best Enrichment & Learning School” title by Parents World Magazine for 2011-2012 and 2012-2013, and most recently, the Asia Pacific Brands Award 2014 conferred by the Trade & Industry Association (Singapore) and Asia Business Journal.