Reading for many people has become a lost art. This is very unfortunate. Much of what we learn about the world around us, we learn through reading. The more we read, the more we learn about what there is around us, what there was in the past and what there will be in the future. Reading is our nexus to civilization – our current civilization, that of people in other parts of the world and that of people who have come before us and have left an invaluable gift that we can tap into whenever we want to.
Our children must learn the value of developing the reading habit. They expand their mental skills by reading. When their mind is engaged in reading, their mental processes are activated – more so than when they engage in most video games and the social media. And reading expands their vocabulary, thereby honing their thinking skills. Vocabulary building is one of the hallmarks of a serious student.
As parents, we must be careful to avoid preaching and making reading a chore. We must develop techniques that subtly inculcate in our children’s minds the idea that reading is for enjoyment. Reading can be fun. Find out what your children’s interests are and find age-appropriate reading material for them.
Personally speaking, I became an ardent baseball fan at age twelve. I read every book on baseball in our school library when I was a junior high school student. Likewise, your children can become enamored with books (or other reading material) if they deal with a subject that is of interest to them. This is key in the matter of getting students to become avid readers: The reading material must be of interest to them.
Make your home a book-friendly environment. Leave books that you know will interest your children lying around your house. Without necessarily saying so, show that you value books and other reading material by making them accessible to anyone who hangs around your house. Discuss books and their subject matter with your children and your friends.
Be a good role model for your kids. Instead of having them see you engaging in video games and social media, have them see you reading books, magazines, newspapers – any kind of reading material, even comic books. Believe it or not, comic books can be a valuable aid in getting your kids to appreciate reading. I say this from a personal point of view.
When I was growing up, life in the United States was very different from what it is now, but some things about life remain constant. In the 1950’s (when I was in my pre-adolescent and adolescent years), there was not much going on in the rural areas of South Texas. I became fascinated with comic books of all kinds – cowboy heroes were very big at that time (Gene Autry, Roy Rogers, Rex Allen, etc.). I came to know them all and read the comics about them avidly. There were many other kinds of popular comic books and I also read most of them. I insist that much of my reading skills I got from reading comic books. It doesn’t matter; whatever can get your children reading will turn into an invaluable asset for them.
Hobbies can be a great area to tap into to have your children become readers. Think of such hobbies as stamp collecting (philately), coin collecting (numismatics), card collecting (baseball, basketball, football and other sports) as well as other collecting hobbies. Card collecting in itself serves as a reading source, as the cards generally contain information on the individuals being featured. Further, there is reading material providing information on all kinds of hobbies. Have your kids become familiar with this reading material.
Show your enthusiasm for the written word. Discuss vocabulary with your kids. Test them on the meanings of certain words. Discussing and testing can be done in an enjoyable, entertaining way. Congratulate them on knowing the meanings of words, but don’t berate them when they don’t know what certain words mean. Simply take advantage of the situation to expose them to the meanings of these words.
Tell them you are a logophile (a lover of words), and use the occasion to explain the components of the word (logo + -phile). Tell them they could enjoy becoming logophiles themselves. Have discussions about vocabulary become a regular activity in your house.
As your children mature and their interests expand, they can parlay their interest in reading to an interest in more mature subjects – literature, technical fields, esoteric subjects, etc. Reading, your children can eventually find out, can be enjoyable as well as edifying.