How to help your littles enjoy reading

Baby reading

Today is 23 April 2018, World Book Day. It’s a day celebrated around the world with the purpose of focussing on literacy and literature.

In South Africa, there is a massive need to focus on this. The Progress in International Reading Literacy Study in 2016 placed South Africa last out of 50 countries in terms of literacy. According to this test (the results of which have been replicated), 8 out of 10 Grade 4 pupils in this country cannot read at Grade 4 level. 80%! This is a crisis, since up to this age you learn to read, but from Grade 4 you read to learn. If you cannot read at this level, you won’t learn what you need to learn.

Massive. problem.

Side note: Interestingly enough, boys generally performed worse than girls, and speakers of African languages fared worse than English- and Afriakaans-speakers. Something to bear in mind if either of these situations (or both) apply to your family.

Side note to a side note: You probably know by now how I feel about raising kids bilingual (check out my guest post on oh! to two as well) and this naturally involves reading to them in different languages. If you’re stumped for resources, Nal’ibali has a great free online story library with stories in multiple African languages.

But why is reading so important?

On a basic level, being able to read is a necessity to function on an everyday basis in this world. We need to read to communicate, to succeed at school, to do business – the list is endless and I’m sure none of this is new to you. But reading has far-reaching benefits too. Children who read for pleasure perform better academically than those who don’t, and not just in English or language-related subjects. Reading helps children develop their vocabulary, reasoning, creativity, discipline and general knowledge.

There are no known side effects to reading, no known detrimental consequences. Reading only has benefits. What else these days can boast that?

How can i encourage my children to read?

Since holding your children down and subjecting them to a reading of your favourite Jodi Picoult novel is generally frowned upon, let’s look at a few other things you can do to encourage your kidlets to pick up a book and read.

  • Read – Sounds silly, but your kids will copy you, so if they see you reading regularly, they are more likely to do it themselves.
  • Read aloud – Read to your kids. Start when they are babies (always a good part of a bedtime routine) and continue for as long as they’ll let you.
  • Have books around – The more books you have lying around your house, the easier it is for your kids to pick up a book when they are bored.
  • Go to story hour – For younger kids, find out if your local library has a storytelling session. Baby J loves his weekly storytelling outing.
  • Subscribe – There are a few subscription boxes options which will deliver a range of books to your door monthly. The fun part of subscription boxes is the surprise element of finding out what’s in each box each month.
  • Make it interesting – Find out what interests your kids and find suitable related books. Take your kids to the library or bookshop and help them find books they will find interesting. Don’t dictate their tastes – give them free rein.
  • Watch the movie – For older kids, show your kids books which have movies based on them so they can watch the movie once they’ve read the book.

Encouraging someone to read is hard. I know, I’ve tried countless time with the Beard to get him reading, with limited success. The other evening he actually started reading a book I gave him for his birthday three years ago which has been quietly sitting undisturbed on his bedside table, and the only thing I can think of is that it is partly because I have gotten back in the habit of reading as well.

Who knows, but you can be sure Baby J gets a lot of opportunities to read and even now, at 13 months, he often chooses to turn the pages of his books than play with other toys – which means a few minutes of peace and quiet – total win!

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