This is my nephew, reading.
No. Don’t let the picture fool you. He’s not always found with a book in his hands. But when he is, it’s a beautiful sight wouldn’t you agree?
I decided to share this as a reminder to you – moms, dads, aunts, uncles, big sisters, big brothers et al – to first read to your children and as they grow, encourage them to continue reading. I decided to share this to counter the narrative that boys don’t read. Any child can be drawn in to reading once you find a book with a subject they’re interested in. He and I have read Anansi stories and books by Astrid Lindgren, and watched slavery drama Underground and post apocalyptic drama The Walking Dead (don’t judge me), and SpongeBob (ack), and Toy Story, listened to songs, and debated the outcomes of battles between super hero pairings (I swear his favourite question is “Auntie Joanne who would win in a fight between…”). These are all different forms of storytelling – folktales and fairytales to books to movies to songs to…superheroes. As such they are all fodder for the imagination and for conversation. Meanwhile, it helps build reading, comprehension, critical thinking, creative thinking, and (oral and written) communication skills.
I don’t mean to suggest that getting him to read is easy. It’s decidedly not. It’s been my great sorrow that none of my little ones have taken to reading as I did but ’tis what ’tis – I and his mom, we press on and savour the victories. Which is why she sent me this picture of boy absorbed in book and gave me permission to share it.
Recently, pulling aunt duty I reviewed some of his writing and I have to say it reflected the streak of creative potential I saw in him when he was a wee-er one – and would do things like describe the perfume of the flower ‘ladies of the night’ as God taking a shower or relate a memory of driving down the road we were then driving on for the first time a week earlier in a dream. For sure, all kids have that creative streak as they discover and name the world around them – the way my niece described the feeling of a foot waking up from sleep as “I have glitter in my foot” because that’s what it felt like to her and she didn’t know the ‘proper’ way to describe it. But I will say that, through several nieces and nephews, his stories are some of the strongest I’ve read for his age and I told him what he did well (which was a lot) and what he could do better (which is basically take his time), and he beamed. He is not a still child – unless video games are involved – but he can be still, he can read, and as we continue to encourage it and engage with him in it, the benefits will come through. That’s the hope anyway. I mean, you never know; his big sister is after all still in a book drought after asking me to read Rapunzel over and over in her infanthood – but still she’s emerged in to a young lady with a good vocabulary, strong views, capable and not shy about communicating them; so I have to assume that the efforts to encourage her to read have paid off in other ways. And, who knows, in time she may find a subject that draws her back to books.
“To learn to read is to light a fire; every syllable that is spelled out is a spark.” – Victor Hugo
In the meantime, some of my tips for encouraging your child to read include:
modelling – let them see you reading especially at the age when all they want to be is just like you
read with them – especially at that age when all they want is to do stuff with you (it won’t last)
make it fun – during my time as a volunteer reader with the Cushion Club, I did whatever it took (including turning childhood favourite ‘red light, green light ‘ into a spelling game)
talk to them about what they’ve read – or watched or played or listened to …in time have them practice writing about it too…or drawing it if art is their thing…point is get them to explore what they feel and express it
take them to reading clubs and creative arts camps – there’s no underestimating the power of reading as a social activity – they look forward to it
sign them up for the library or take them book shopping – make it an excursion
set reading goals – my book With Grace was one of the selections over at Cherish 365 when the mom-blogger and her children set themselves a reading goal of, you guessed it, 365 books in 2017
don’t use reading as punishment – also don’t make reading be something they associate only with school – reading is fundamental but it’s also fun
pay attention to what they’re interested in – what is it cooking, football, dolphins? I guarantee you, there’s a book or several hundred about whatever it is out there
encourage books as gifts and package it with something they associate with fun – they’ll be inclined to look more kindly on the book, once they’ve exhausted the other thing
do other things with them – make reading and writing just one of the fun and varied activities you engage in
introduce them to books reflective of their culture – children need to see themselves – here, start here with these books for children by Antiguan and Barbudan writers
Those are just some of my tips as a writer, reader, aunt and volunteer reader of many years, not to mention founder and coordinator of Wadadli Pen through which we encourage children to write via our ‘annual’ Challenge.
What would you add to the list?
I’m linking this post up with the It’s Monday What Are You Reading #IMWAYR meme – the kid lit edition as found on the Unleashing Readers blog. Seems a good fit.
As with all content on wadadlipen.wordpress.com, except otherwise noted, this is written by Joanne C. Hillhouse (author of The Boy from Willow Bend, Dancing Nude in the Moonlight, Musical Youth, With Grace, Lost! A Caribbean Sea Adventure, and Oh Gad! ). All Rights Reserved.