Nurturing Bookworms

By Lily Maznah Muas

“My three year old son loves the pictures in the books, but he can’t read.  Should I be concerned?”
“My neighbour’s daughter goes for reading tuition classes since she was two years old.   Should I send mine too?”

Photo : Alimkids Bangi

Have you heard these questions before?  Or have you asked these questions yourself?

In our information-laden age, we parents are bombarded with advertisements calling for children as young as two yrs old to learn to read.    Flashcards, mobile and tablet applications, CDs and various multimedia are being used to get the children to be able to “read” before they can even talk.  Parents are equally pressured when their friends’ children are reading at an earlier age than their own children. The ability of the child to read is being used as a measure of how “smart” a child is compared to others.

Of course at the end of the day, the ability to read is an essential skill in life.  We cannot undermine its importance. However, the concern is more on whether in our quest to get our children to be readers too soon, we leave out another important element – the pleasure of DISCOVERING knowledge from books.  

So, how can we as parents, help nurture the love of books in children without the pressure of being able to read too soon?  Let us try these tips together.

  • Start Early

Make books as part of the child’s companion even from babyhood.  Softbooks or clothbooks are a good start. Keep them close to them at all time and talk about the pictures in the book to the child.  They may not understand what you are saying, but they will associate your soothing tone of voice with the object, which is the book. Clothbooks are good especially for babies as they like to put things in the mouth as a way for exploration and learning.  A word of caution – do ensure there are no small buttons or items that could pose a danger to the baby.

  • Make it Fun

Books for young children should be fun, with lots of opportunity to explore and discover the world around them.  Look for books which have “touch & feel” features, for example with smooth and rough surfaces so the children can experience them.  Some books also have sounds which children can associate with the story. Books with flaps are also good as it adds an element of surprise underneath the flaps.  Make them as part of the children’s play item. Keep it fun!

  • Read Aloud

Reading aloud to the children tells them that there is a story behind the pictures in the book.   Point to the words as you read them out loud so the children can see the relation between the text and the word itself.  It is important to play around with your voice when you read aloud to them to keep their attention. Make it a memorable experience for them so they will associate this feeling with the fun of reading with you.  Read aloud session are also great in a group. Add some activities like arts & crafts related to the story to further enhance their understanding about the story.

Photo: Alimkids Bukit Jelutong
  • Choose Things They Like

Find books which are of current interest to the child.  If they are into airplanes, find books with stories related to airplanes or characters which are airplanes.  If they are into dinosaurs, find books that have dinosaurs in the story. You may also look for books with their favourite TV or movie characters.  Having these characters in the book will keep them curious and want to know more about their favourite characters.  

  • Keep Them Easy to Reach

If you want your children to love books, they need to be able to get them whenever and wherever they like.  Have a bookcase in every room in your house, including in the living room if possible. Keep the bookcase within their reach so they do not need to climb dangerously to get a book.  For younger children, always keep a few books in your car or in your bag to keep them occupied during long journeys. Encourage children to bring books with them when you go out so they can fill up their time by reading while waiting for the food at the restaurant, for example.

Photo: Alimkids Putra Heights

The investment of time and effort to instill the love of books is one which is worth more than money.  Children who love books will see books as a source of pleasure where they find joy in discovering new experiences and learn new knowledge, which will benefit them for life.  

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