Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Setting up a children's home library

Source: the boo and the boy

  • But my son or daughter doesn’t want to read!”

As an English teacher, I hear this common complaint all the time when I ask if their children read at home.

I also hear interesting stories about how parents try to get their children to read by:

  • buying books and magically wait for their kids to read them
  • promising them rewards if they read them
  • threatening them with “unpleasant consequences” IF they don’t read them
  • lecturing them about the “benefits” of reading the books

Then, I’ll give them the following suggestions, stressing to them that it’s a) not an overnight miracle and b) they MUST try their best before declaring it a failure:

1. Switch off the TV at least 1-2 hours a day when the family is awake and at home. The radio is OK.

2. Parents MUST be seen reading (and enjoying) a book themselves – ok, newspapers and magazines count but do pick up a book sometimes 

3. Read to your children. Children love their parents’ attention more than anything else thus curling up or snuggling up with you and a book gives them the greatest joy. Don’t worry…this isn’t permanent as soon they’ll want to read the book themselves. Sigh and you’ll miss those bonding moments…

4. Set up an open shelf with various books there – the family’s selection can all be placed there, with books for younger kids on a low shelf. Books for toddlers can be separated but I’ve not had the need to do that EVEN with my super-active, naughty toddler 

It’s important that the kids can see and get the books themselves. Usually, glass-cased bookshelves are not very encouraging…

I’ve recently enforced the “No TV” rule i.e. if he wants me to read, the TV must be off.

The little fella will turn it off first, announcing,

  • “Shish off TV! Read books!”

5. In buying books for your kids, it’s best to start off with what they LIKE. From there, introduce other titles you’d like your child to read.

The key here is to have a VARIETY of reading materials as they’ll benefit from the information, ideas and knowledge from multiple perspectives.

For example, my boy is CRAZY over trains and he has about 6 books now on trains or transport. To encourage a balanced book “diet”, you will notice that I have other books slotted there too i.e.

- LadyBird “Read it Yourself” series – short stories
- LadyBird “Keyword Reading Scheme” series – essential vocabulary to help with reading skills
- the Bright Baby books – to build his vocabulary
- books about animals – different subject area other than trains!
- Chinese colouring books – to support his learning Chinese at school

6. Discuss the books with them if they show interest. Or you can show interest. Don’t lecture or ask them as a father or mother would!

Instead, approach them (esp teenagers) as you would your colleague, neighbour or another adult. You’ll be surprised at the insight your young reader shows from the discussion.

Also, refrain from acting shocked or horror-struck when they make shocking remarks on politics, sex or other debatable issues. Discussing with them about ensures that communication channels are always open among family members and it’s a great chance for you to fill in gaps for your children.

What if you can’t give all the answers? No matter how educated or experienced we parents may be, we are not experts on every subject (although we could try to be). Suggest that they talk to their best teacher about it, check it out in an encyclopedia or join them on a discovery through the Internet.

With a young child, ask questions that they can answer, eg:
1. “I can see the sun, a flower…what can you see? Show Mummy…”
2. “Uh-oh, what happened here?”

Or, you can even feign tiredness (as I often do LOL) and let the child “read” the book. Lately, he has been trying to show off what a “big boy” he is by holding the book and reading out the words or telling the story of a few books.

I hope that our experiences give you an idea of how to set up a home library and encourage your child to read. Remember to make the experience an enjoyable one – and you’ll have your child reading this book or that book in no time.

This article is copied from Kit's blog, RIGHT READS which was published in 2008 but still very relevant for us in 2011. Thank you Kit for a very nice sharing.

Why Reading Aloud Has No Effect And What To Do About It?

You've been reading aloud for three months straight.

Every day.

Since the very beginning you religiously followed your preferred scheme.

Suppertime → Bath-time → Reading aloud → Bedtime.

Whenever you can, you also read aloud during afternoons and weekend mornings.

Yet, despite all your efforts and sacrifices, there is no visible effect.

Your lovely boy is still having trouble pronouncing those "R"s and he is even starting to stutter.

Your darling girl is still not in the top of her class and certainly not among the most fluent talkers of her generation.

There are no tangible effects of all that reading, despite all assurances that this is a game-changer.

Your kids were not reinvented as the best students of their generation, as you expected.

Reading aloud was not a silver bullet, after all. 

It is even more disheartening because you've done it all by the book.

You cut down on your kid's screen time. A struggle you would rather not remember.

Their library cards are stamped front and back.

Your home library is brimming with children's titles.

Yet your kids will rarely ask you on their own to read aloud to them during the day.

They prefer to stack the books one on top of the other and shout "Timbbbbbeeeeer!" as they collapse the books to the floor, laughing like crazy.

Where is that promised enlightment?

A Love So Beautiful

Enlightenment must come little by little - otherwise it would overwhelm. [Idries Shah]

One of the mistakes that we parents make is sometimes we expect the impossible.

As strange as it may seem, reading aloud is not an activity that we should embark on because of its results.

The name of the game is not winning.

This is no game at all.

There is no need to measure the effects of reading aloud as it is not a mind-training activity.

Reading aloud is a mind-expanding activity. 

You are taking part in the creation of a "thinking machine", not a circus performer.

Once again you are giving birth to your child by reading aloud to him.

A thinking child is being born.

Give your kid time to mature.

Paradoxically, some kids who are passing through phases of dramatic vocabulary increases could even begin to stumble on their words as they become aware that there are many more ways of saying what they feel.

Take, for example, your little girl who feels hungry.

Instead of saying "I'm hungry" as usual, her mind is now aware that it can instruct the mouth to say "I'm famished" or "I'm starving" or "I could eat a horse"  or "I'm having the munchies" or even "My roaring tummy is a mystery to me!".

Which one to use? Hesitation ensues.

But it is a sign of greater vocabulary exuberance, not the opposite.

It may be tempting to try to make conclusions about whether reading aloud is making a difference to your kid now.

Beware of making the wrong conclusions.

For example, a parent notices:

The more we read aloud, the less social my kid has become.
Therefore reading aloud causes introvertion, he needs more sports and less reading aloud. 

This type of logic - reverse causation - is a fallacy that can easily occur.

But it is no more logical, than the following statement:

The more firemen fighting a fire, the bigger the fire is observed to be.
Therefore firemen cause fire.

Stop trying to assess the effects that reading aloud is having on your kid.

Keep your focus instead on:
  • choosing good books
  • connecting book content to your child's life experience and other concepts
  • having fun and sharing laughs during read-alouds 
  • talking and communicating with your child about the books that you read and plan to read

Reading aloud is not a tactic you should use to improve your kids' school performance. It may be an added benefit, yes, but school tests are not the aim of this exercise.  

Reading aloud is a way of showing our children how much fun it can be to spend time with the greatest minds of human civilization. 

It is also one of the most beautiful ways of bestowing love on another being. 

If you are concerned about tests, don't worry. Life creates the ultimate test - a test your well-read kid will pass with flying colors. 

A test of humanity. 

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