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Raising children who love to read

Child reading

By Nur Choudhury

It could be said that reading is a skill that ultimately frees the human being. Once you learn to read, you can access the vast corpus human knowledge on record out there. From non-fiction to fiction, there are masses of books and information waiting to be discovered. It is worth reflecting on the fact that the first word of the Qur’an to be revealed was the command: “Read!” This in itself makes reading and learning a centre focus in the Islamic tradition.

Reading is not only a valuable critical skill but also a great way to unwind and spend time efficiently. For this reason, love of reading is something most parents are keen for their children to develop. Unfortunately, since screens and technology have developed at a rapid rate in recent years, they are consuming more and more of our free time.

We also need to ask whether we can instill love of reading in our children when it is becoming ever challenging to incorporate into our own busy schedules. The reality is that we must also reconnect ourselves with the printed word so that we may pass on the joy of reading to our children.

Following are some simple steps to help develop a love of reading in your children.

1. Read to your child

Reading to your child from an early age, even if they can’t yet understand the words, is beneficial for both parent and child. It can be a wonderful time for bonding as well as a loveable routine that you both can look forward to. Reading involves sharing a space together and it also forces downtime during the busy day. There are ample benefits for your child, including hearing your voice which will be comforting and grounding. Your lap is ultimately the best reading space for a young child and you will find them crawling on with a book themselves.

In order to make this a reality, you can set up a reading corner in a part of the house where you spend the most time together. Also keep books at hand in the bedroom and in the car for some spontaneous reading. Pretty soon your child will ask you for a ‘story’ themselves in order to reconnect with you.

Reading aloud to and with your child should never end. Even as they grow up and learn to read themselves, having that time where they are being read to by their parent will always be vastly important to them. The style of reading can develop to make it more interesting for them as they grow. Asking questions and creating anticipation can be a wonderful way to keep the reading session lively and engaging.

2. Visit your local library

The library was traditionally one of the most important buildings in any town and city. The Islamic word actually boasts of some of the greatest libraries in the world. The Bibliotheca Alexandrina in Egypt, for example, is actually a breathtaking masterpiece that makes you proud of the Islamic civilisation and its respect and honour of the scholar’s pen.

It is important that children have a connection to their local library, many of which are losing support due to people frequenting them less and less. The local library should be a familiar place for every child. It should be somewhere they visit regularly, and where they enjoy spending time. Here they will learn to respect books and knowledge. Letting them explore the shelves and choose books to read will make the visit enjoyable and exciting.

Moreover, library membership and borrowing books also teaches children important lessons around responsibility, sharing, and ownership. Looking after library property can be a great way of teaching them the concept of value, how to treat borrowed goods and keeping to deadlines.

3. Develop a home library

As mentioned, reading and learning is pivotal to Islam. As Muslims, we are encouraged to never stop learning and accessing knowledge. It is important to learn matters relating directly to our faith and religion, as well as about the world around us. Reflecting on the signs of God is in fact a command repeated often in revelation.

To this end, every home should have a diverse and complete library which has some books in every field. Children should be taught the value of time and that they should persist in learning and reading during their free time instead of wasting hours and days on mindless games. A home culture built on such values will result in efficient, smart and responsible children who go on to achieve great things.

A team led by Joanna Sikora of the Australian National University looked into the benefits of growing up in a book-filled environment. The results saw that literacy in adults improved in correlation to the number of books they had grown up with at home. Growing up with only a handful of books in the home resulted in below average literacy levels. However, if adults had around 80 books at home, this boosted the levels to average, and literacy continued to improve until home libraries reached about 350 books. This shows the importance of home libraries and parental priorities and the way they can have lifelong impact on literacy skills.

4. Make time for reading yourself

Modeling is the most powerful tool in instilling the love of reading in your children. Your children should see you read a wide variety of books and literature in your free time. Instead of scrolling through your phone at every opportunity, you should sometimes pick up a book when you have some time to spare. Many of us have unrealistic expectations of our children reading peacefully to relax while we may be glued to the screen. While there may be distinctions and differing ground rules relating to how parents and children spend time, there still has to be an overlap to create a shared home culture that has an impact. Some quiet family reading time where every family member sits in the living room to read a book or newspaper can be a wonderful tradition. Thrown in with some hot chocolate and a duvet, it can be a great way to encourage children to relax without the screen.

Summary

Loving to read and valuing books are both concepts that we are fast losing in the modern era. Technology and screens have taken away from the printed book, and enjoying to read often does not live up to the thrills of watching a fast paced movie. But loving to read can be learned, and once a child loves to read, they will never unlove it. This is because reading gives free reign to thought and imagination, and allows the reader to get lost in a world beyond the present. It requires nothing save some good lighting and a place to put their feet up.

To instill this kind of love of and enjoyment in reading, parents should endeavor to create a home culture that values books. Children should also see parents taking the time to read and learn at every opportunity. This will all teach them the value of time, and how it is a gift that should be used wisely. Such an upbringing will only bring good for your children since as they grow into adults, they will hopefully be well-rounded knowledgeable individuals who are grounded in skills that will assist them in achieving success in whatever they set out to do.