Reading 101 for Parents

I am a lot like my son in some aspects.
For him, if he can’t be the fastest runner, he’s not sure there’s a point in running.
I guess that’s why writing is not his thing, just as reading wasn’t mine back at school.
No matter what I started reading, my brother and sister were far ahead, way faster and way better than me. So like my kid, I would pretend that I didn’t care and reading wasn’t my thing.
But then my lovely English teacher with her kind smile would read aloud to us and I would lose myself in that story. Books would call out to me.

But reading didn’t come so easy to me.
Reading involves giving up on people and interactions, being by yourself and getting lost in words.
It is great to step into a different world. However, making time to step out of one’s manic schedules to a quiet time was a struggle for me. Still is.

Oh, you should meet my professor at Media School!
His never ending frustration on having to churn out journalists who don’t read.
How can you write if you don’t read, he would say.
Still does.
Day after day, year after year, he battles a generation that is letting go of their books; One comma, one dash at a time.

He reminded me of the power of words.
As did my friend who gifted me the Women Who Run With the Wolves at a time that I was struggling to make sane choices.
Not to forget my wonderful boss who threw me into a course teaching Tom Stoppard‘s Arcadia just as I took the hardest decision I had to for my son — walking away from my marriage. As though I had to see beauty in life through Thomasina’s eyes and I had to question my definitions of morality again with a brilliant bunch of kids who had just stepped out of school. After all you cannot unstir a spoonful of jam from your pudding. You just had to allow for the colour to change and move on.

I was lucky to find my way back to books in the midst of my chaos.
And I guess that had helped my son to take to books like a moth to fire.
He devours books.
He can lose himself in them for hours.
He forget his meals, forgets the world around and everyone in it as long as he has a good book for company. He has traveled with the Secret Seven, The Famous Five, The AVATAR, Tintin and The Hardy Boys on all their adventures. He is trying to beat Stilton at his game of words. And now the wizard world of Harry Potter and his friends awaits him on his ninth birthday.

But not everyone loves books.
Not everyone loves to be on their own and sometimes when we force them to doing something, it becomes more of a task than fun. Not to forget books is equal to study and study is equal to school and we all know, school ain’t that fun mamma!

So how then do you kickstart your child’s journey with books:

Start young: The earlier they start, the better. Their association with books will be with beautiful colours and images. Slowly it becomes a part of their lives.

Don’t fret: Don’t worry if they don’t stick with you for more than five minutes. You let them go and continue the read. They may come back and even if they didn’t, they will see you go on.

Choose the right book: If its too easy a reading level, they get distracted. If it’s too difficult, they lose interest. Journey with them so you know where they stand.

Make it Special: A kid may not like books but they love you. My son loved me reading to him, but now the snooty nine year old says, i’ll read on my own. But often I catch him staring as I read to the little one lost in my voice and my animated expressions. It is your special time, they will leave everything to sit with you.

Keep at it: Ten minutes before bedtime, read to them. Do it everyday. Kids love their rituals and make reading a part of their bedtime ritual. In time, you will forget, but they won’t.

Start Now: It doesn’t matter if your kid is five or seven now and you have never read to them. Today can always be the first day. And don’t stress about it, they have enough of that on their plate. Let it be something we do for fun, for us time, for decompressing after a hard day work.

Read yourself: Most often kids refuse to do what you tell them, but they do what they see you do. Swear in front of them once and you have added a word for life to their vocabulary. Try reading too.

Don’t compare: Look out for what kids read at a particular level for inspiration, but never ever pressurise or compare them to other kids their age. Let their journey with books be their own.

Do not Judge:  It does NOT matter if your eight year old loves a book meant for five year olds or a boy loves the ‘naughtiest girl in school’. Don’t bring age or gender to their reading habits. Simply encourage in words and action.

Curate your books: Source them wisely as they impact the kid’s vocabulary and their choices. Look out for recommendations.

Sustaining reading: Reading is an expensive habit. Don’t kindle the fire and then say I won’t buy you any more books. Look out for discounts and book sales. Go for preloved books. Find a good library. Exchange books with other moms.

Parenting is exhausting and I have found myself asleep with the book so many times before we could finish it. Luckily he was asleep too right next to me.
All you need to do is try again tomorrow. Maybe the Billy Goats Gruff will bring you the magic The Three Little Pigs couldn’t.

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