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There are few things in life that truly ignite your imagination like a good book. Reading opens doors to far-off places and creates entire worlds in your mind; it allows you to step into the lives of strangers and make friends with them; to travel the globe with nothing in your wallet but a library card.
It’s never too early to instil a love of reading in your child – and you can begin even before they’re old enough to read themselves.
1. Read stories together
According to this study by Scholastic, 60 per cent of children who grew up to be frequent readers were read to by their parents almost every day before they entered kindergarten.
Therefore, to encourage a love of books, begin simply by sharing a bedtime story with your child every night. Choose the most gripping adventure stories and the most inventive fairytales to captivate your child. Once your child understands that books can take them on an exciting journey, you will have laid a strong foundation for them to develop an avid love of reading.
2. Be patient and encouraging
When the time comes to teach your child how to read, take things slow and celebrate every milestone.
“If a child is struggling with reading, be patient. Children will only be more discouraged if you show your exasperation with their slow progress,” shares parent Salimah Abdul Hamid, whose first child went on to get a degree in English Literature at NUS.
“Give your child plenty of encouragement, and make every reading session fun. If your child feels supported, it’ll be easier for him or her to learn this new skill – as well as to love it.”
3. Link your child’s interests back to books
If your child expresses an interest in a subject such as animals or cars, buy them a book that allows them to learn more about the topic. Choose books with bright, cheerful illustrations and a fair amount of text. Allow them to peruse it unaided, but let them know that they can always come to you if they need any clarification. This will encourage independent learning and will help your child to develop a healthy sense of initiative.
4. Make library visits a regular weekend routine
Set aside a day every other week to visit the library with your children. It’s best not to dictate what you think your child should be reading, so give them free rein to explore the shelves and pick out books that interest them, whatever they may be.
Thankfully, many libraries in Singapore have beautifully designed children’s sections that make visiting a delightful experience. One of the more notable libraries is the Central Public Library which houses the world’s first Green Library for kids.
5. Challenge and engage your child
A surefire way to get a child interested in something is to make it a game. Use a colourful chart to mark your child’s reading progress throughout the year, and set little rewards for every five books completed to boost their motivation.
Make an effort to sustain their interest by talking to them about what that they’ve read. Show them that reading doesn’t have to be a solitary activity – engage them in meaningful conversation and express interest in their opinions. Not only will this bolster their enthusiasm towards reading, it’s also a wonderful way to bond with your child and keep track of their progress.