Baba kahani sunao’!  This request (a demand rather) leads to one of the most fun activities I do with my kids.  Their eyes open wide with wonder and fingers excitedly run over the illustrations as they make comments about characters in the story.  Just awesome!

Unfortunately, I don’t see this tradition being practiced in most Pakistani homes any longer.  Parents are too busy to read to their kids and children too absorbed in video games and cartoons to experience the joy and fun of reading together.

Why is Reading to Kids Such a Big Deal?

Reading with your kids is not just about fun, it helps them in many ways:

  • Listening to you narrate a story helps them learn the sounds of different words and how to pronounce them.  It not only makes them better readers but improves their speech as well.
  • Having kids nestled around doing something fun, helps strengthen the relationship between you and your child.
  • It helps improve their performance in school.
  • It improves their attention span, which is very important for learning.
  • The stories they hear have a deep impact on them as they relate to the characters and follow the interaction between them in various situations.
  • Reading helps kids understand abstract concepts like emotions and they begin to understand how different actions affect others and various aspects of life.

How to Motivate Your Children to Read?

Reading to children is the first and the most important step towards enabling them to read themselves.  These are a few things you can do to motivate them to become readers:

Books as a gift: I know it’s difficult to compete with ‘Ben 10’ accessories or an awesome ‘transformer’, but mix colorful, fun and entertaining books with your kids’ favorite toys.  You’ll be surprised at how excited they can get.

Have books around: If you are a reader and have lots of books in your home, it makes your kids think that reading is a part of life just like the other things.  Don’t always try to put books in the bookshelf.  Leave some laying around for the little ones so that they can grab one when they feel like it.

Lead by example: if you are a reader, chances are that your child will be too. Children imitate their parents so be a role model when it comes to reading.

Bring out the performer in you: Reading becomes great fun when you don’t just read stories but perform them. Kids love hearing different voices for different characters.  A ‘genie’ becomes much more entertaining when you suddenly rise up spreading your arms and utter in a thundering voice, “kya hukm hai meray aqaa?!”.

Cut down on TV and video games: You can’t get them to read if they are glued to the TV.  So, turn it off! At least give them a few hours without TV, computer or video games so that they are forced to look for other things to do.

Take them to the library: There is something mesmerizing about standing in the middle of shelves upon shelves of books.  Your kids would love to explore and choose books they can take home to read.

Don’t worry about choosing the ‘right’ books: Let them read what they like rather than worrying about recommendations from ‘experts’.  There is nothing wrong with reading comics as long as it’s not the only thing your child reads.

Tips on Reading to Your Child

Choose books according to their age: Very young children have short attention spans so they probably wouldn’t be interested in hearing Cinderella.  They would be more interested in books with lots of pictures and a few sentences.  You can try to steer them towards your choice of books when they get a little older and start reading themselves.

Pick an appropriate time: The best time to read to kids is when they are comfortable and wound down such as bed time or nap time.  These times allow them to get absorbed in the story and let their imagination run wild as they drift off to sleep.

Talk to them about the story: Engage them in the story by talking a little about the plot and the characters before you begin.  As the story progresses, ask them questions about what’s happening in the story or what do they see in the illustrations.  Younger children like to identify colors, shapes and sounds of the characters and objects in the story.

Do you have any tips to share? Or perhaps you have an interesting story about your story telling time.  So, please do share in the comments.

(Image Courtesy: BigStockPhoto)