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Making reading a best-selling hobby

13 Dec 2016

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Reading is a recommended activity for children. Besides helping children in language proficiency, guided reading is also a good opportunity for holistic education. Dr Chitra Shegar, director of Reading Edge Academy, shares some tips to help grow your child’s love for reading.

Follow your child’s interests

As a child grows, he will develop his own interests, and the reading material which you offer to your child should move in tandem with his interests. For instance, if your child is fascinated with sea creatures, introduce him to books on the underwater world. If your child loves playing with toy vehicles, get him to read books on transport. Forcing your child to read books which he has little interest in could make him lose focus.

While you allow your child to take the lead in picking his reads, be mindful that the content has to be age-appropriate. Your child should be able to understand about 90 per cent of a book’s content without getting help. Getting your child to read books that are beyond his abilities could kill his interest, while reading material that is too easy for your child can become boring after a few pages.

Even as you allow your child to read about topics of interest to him, expose him to a variety of literature so that he can also pick up new knowledge. For instance, a fable with dinosaurs as protagonists can teach your child about prehistoric animals, while rhyming poetry can teach your child to differentiate words that are similar in spelling or pronunciation.

Talk about the story

A child must understand the content of the reading material to be able to learn from it, or it would simply be a pronunciation exercise. Thus, it is important to engage your child to ensure that they are able to follow the plot in the book.

As you discuss the story with your child, take the chance to relate the content to everyday issues. For instance, if the story tells of bullying, talk to your child about why bullying is wrong, and what can be done if he encounters such a situation in school.

If your child chances upon content that could be uncomfortable for discussion – such as reproduction and sexuality – don’t try to hide it. Instead, guide him through the book in a factual manner. Children are likely to still come across similar “taboo” content in future, and it would be better to offer parental guidance early on.

Be a role model

Children learn behaviours and habits by imitating the adults around them. Thus, it is important to set a positive example for your child. Let your child see you with a book in hand whenever possible. Make regular trips to the library, and bring your child with you. Ensure that reading material is always within easy reach for your child at home. Parents would need to make a conscious effort to help children become avid readers.

It’s OK to re-read

Does your child have a book which he re-visits from time to time? You do not have to discourage it. While reading a variety of literature has benefits, re-reading books also has its advantages. As your child reads the same book on different occasions, he would focus on internalising different content each time. In addition, re-reading content allows your child to familiarise himself with new vocabulary and sentence structures that appear in the book.

Leisure reading has not caught on in Singapore yet, but it is a hobby that can be cultivated from young. Ultimately, parents have an important role in nurturing children to become avid readers, so that they can not only attain language proficiency, but also learn lessons that prepare them for the future.