The art of reading, regardless of age, is a journey that entertains while educating. Books are the fuel to the spark of imagination. Books also instil a wider vocabulary and fosters creativity, while providing a different world view. As is the case with inculcating most good habits, it is suggested to get children interested in books as early as possible.

Believe it or not, introducing books and reading can start with parents reading children’s books to a newborn baby! This creates a routine with them listening to their parents’ voice reading to them and perhaps even get them interested in picking up a book themselves.

As they get older and are able to start reading on their own, parents are advised to seat them by their sides and get them to read, and parents just help them with the difficult areas.

Benefits of Encouraging Reading at a Young Age

While parents play a pivotal role in inculcating this habit in their children, primary school teachers play a secondary but equally vital role in developing it. Encouraging primary school students to get into a practice of reading has several benefits. The advantages of encouraging reading at a young age are plenty:

● The child exposed to reading at a younger age grows up to have better memory and attention span, often doing better at school, too.

● A child’s developing brain is often compared to a sponge, soaking up everything that they can in a continuous and effortless manner, free of discrimination. Hence, it is imperative that, in addition to English, children should also be pushed to read books in their mother tongue and other languages.

● Reading rituals from a young age mould children to have good communication skills, better language development and a wider vocabulary.

● A well-read child grows up to be more creative and imaginative owing to the magical transportive ability of books.

● Reading books with a lesson or moral at the end of it is a great way to impart the right value systems to the child.

● An often-overlooked advantage is how parents reading to their kids improves their bond.

The Role that Parents Play in Encouraging Reading

Undoubtedly, parents are the key players in raising a reader. Here are a few things that parents can do to encourage a reading habit in their children:

1. Children See, Children Do

Modelling is a fairly common cognitive-behavioural psychological tool used to elicit desirable habits and is one that is most effective on children. Parents, siblings and other close members of the household must lead by example, spending their free time reading, thereby modelling this behaviour. This could be as simple as seeing the father read the morning newspaper or the mother reading a novel at the end of the day. This imprints on children far more than forcing them to read while you spend your leisure time watching Netflix instead. It is said, “If you want to raise a reader, be a reader first.”

2. Reading Should be a Multi-Sensory Activity for Children

Do not make reading feel like a chore they have to complete but a fun activity to top off their day. Get them to relate everything they read to their real life. Right from looking at the pictures in a children’s book to trying to read the words as they listen to what is being narrated and them feeling the pages in the book--reading to children is truly a multi-sensory experience. There are many books in the market that provide the tactile experience.

3. Make Reading Fun

When parents read to their children, they must not hesitate to pull out the big guns--voice modulation, expressions, and sound effects. This will have them reaching out for more books to read. Parents can allow the children to repeat and mimic animal sound effects as they read to them and ask them simple questions to keep their attention. They can attend local storytelling and book-reading events with the children to give them more exposure. They can take them to the library and bookstore just as often as they visit a toy store! They can even enact a part of the book casting the child as the star. They can start a discussion and debate around books that they have read and encourage them to ask questions.

4. Reward Good Behaviour with Reading Time

Though this may confuse the unassuming, many parents know just how excited their children get when allowed to spend more time up reading past bedtime. They can turn books into the gift they receive for good behaviour. They could visit a library as a reward for doing a good deed or keeping calm during their doctor’s appointment. This gets children to associate reading with pleasure and they, most often, grow to become voracious readers.

5. Create a Cosy Reading Nook Just for Them

Having their own zone with a selection of books, a comfortable seat, beanbag, or a hammock illuminated by good lighting makes reading an escape for them from a young age.

The Role that Teachers Play in Encouraging Reading

Here is what teachers can do to encourage a reading habit in their primary school students:

1. Make Reading a Part of the Curriculum

Set aside a few minutes a day during school hours dedicated to reading. Give the students a selection of books to choose from and encourage the students to read in silence, as they would in a library.

2. Use Technology & Other Aids to Encourage Reading

Be as innovative as possible and integrate technology and other aids to encourage primary school students to read. Have a video book up on YouTube playing on the projector and urge them to read along. Call in guest speakers and authors to your school to animate storytelling. Put on classroom plays based on their understanding of a book the class has read together. The options are endless!

‘Raising a reader’ is a popular term and hashtag in parenting and teaching circles these days- with a lot of helpful tips on how a young child can be moulded to grow up to love reading. Parents and teachers both play a major role in sowing this wonderful habit.