I’ve travelled the world twice over,
Met the famous; saints and sinners,
Poets and artists, kings and queens,
Old stars and hopeful beginners,
I’ve been where no-one’s been before,
Learned secrets from writers and cooks
All with one library ticket
To the wonderful world of books.
~ Janice James~
Reading is one of the most important things we ever learn to do. If we can’t read, we won’t know God’s Word. We won’t be able to write – not even signing our own names. We won’t be able to feed our children or read the labels to give them the right dosage of medicine when they are sick. We won’t be able to read cautions to prevent ourselves and our families from danger. We won’t be able to learn or have the privilege to read all the wonderful stories that other people write. This is the reality of many, many people in South Africa and the world today.
According to www.100people.org 18 out of every 100 people in the world can’t read – that means 180 000 out of every million people on earth! That is way too much. Closer to home, it is estimated that 50% of the matriculants failing their Grade 12 exams, could have passed if they were better readers. That is a shocking statistic.
Given this, it is obviously important to learn to read and to read well. Here are a few pointers to help you as a parent to get your child reading.
1 Set the example for your children. Be a reader yourself and tell them about the awesome and interesting things you have read about. That may probably encourage your child to read too.
2 Read for him from the time he is a baby. Use your voice to speak like the different characters, show him the pictures – act out the scenes if possible. He may laugh at you, but he will start associating reading with fun.
3 Since you know your child best, read stories to him and let him read stories that he is interested in. Don’t read a boy a boring love story if he would prefer an adventure.
4 Start a story and let your child pitch in to finish the story. It will be great fun and maybe encourage him to explore story books for himself.
5 If your child doesn’t like reading long books, give him cartoons or shorter children books with pictures. At least he will read something.
6 Encourage your child to read the Bible. They might find it difficult at first, because of the older language and the not-up-to-date sentence construction, but the spelling is correct and the words are everlasting – literally. Start by letting them read the ‘Old Testament’ stories first and also chapters like Ruth and Esther, before moving onto the ‘heavier’ stuff. (And be ready to answer a lot of questions.)
7 Cartoons/comics are wonderful reading tools. They are normally colourful and funny, short and – boys especially – love them. They help to get a child from not reading at all to getting interested in reading. It also written concisely – something that will help the child with his own writing.
8 When your child outgrows children’s books, start with tween (10-12 years old) literature. Those series we read as children are popular at this stage – Saartjie, Trompie, The Hardy Boys, The Secret Seven etc. (Trompie and Saartjie had been re-written into more modern Afrikaans, so that it is more digestible for our modern children – although my son still found it hard to identify with the Trompie setting and characters.)
9 Help them read their first longer book by taking turns to read aloud. You can start half a chapter and he can read the second half. Start out by reading only one chapter per day or in the evening in bed. That way it is easier to read a longer book and they won’t feel overwhelmed by the many pages awaiting them. It is wonderful to reach the end of a month or two months or even three and see that satisfied little face when he realised that he did it!
10 If your older child still doesn’t want to read books, buy magazines or subscribe to a specific magazine that he or she would be interested in. Magazines as a rule are very well edited; therefore your child will learn correct spelling without even knowing it. The more they read, the easier they will remember the words and the better there spelling and the sentence construction will become – without you even nagging or trying too hard! There are various teen magazines available these days – just scan the content before you give it to your child. For boys or even girls with and interest in engineering, cars and the world around, Popular Mechanics is a good choice. For smaller children there is NG Kids (National Geographic). The Reader’s Digest doesn’t only have good articles, but is also a good source for facts, feedback on new developments and sometimes even helps with speech topics. And they love the humour. So, take your child to the nearest news agency and choose some magazines for them to read.
11 Remember that boys love non-fiction, so encourage them to read books and magazine articles with facts if they don’t like long books of fiction.
12 Internet surfing under supervision would also help them to at least read something. Just keep in mind that content can be incorrect and that there are lots of spelling and language mistakes on the web. But, if it gets your child reading, why not? And he will even learn something. Let them research NASA and National Geographic pages or let them look up information on careers and hobbies. Caution: Make sure your child surfs safely!
13 Join the library and regularly take out books for the whole family. It is cheap and a good way to develop a reading routine within the household. Make an outing of the trip to the ‘bib’ and give your children time to sit there and page through the books and magazines before taking out their books for the next two weeks. Libraries also have great holiday programs and encourage reading through various other initiatives.
Remember, our children are different from us. They live in a different world than we grew up in. There is an overwhelming amount of entertainment competing for their attention. They live partially virtual lives. Each child differs from the next. They are unique individuals. They learn differently from us and they each learn at their own pace. Appreciate, respect and embrace those differences. And have patience. In time, they will get there…
© 2010 Riëtte de Kock
I am trying hard to be a Proverbs 31-woman – excellent wife, finest mom, greatest lover and successful entrepreneur and freelance writer all at the same time! I share a living space in Pretoria, South Africa with my husband, son, mother, four dogs and sometimes the neighbours’ cats – and my head with way too many ideas and multitudes of story characters.
Visit my website at www.thewritingclub.co.za and buy my children’s ebook, Yeovangya, on Amazon Kindle athttp://www.amazon.co.uk/Yeovangya-ebook/dp/B008CP2RQ0
My Afrikaans blog is available on my website – or just click on this link: http://www.thewritingclub.co.za/writingclub/index.php?option=com_lyftenbloggie&view=lyftenbloggie&category=bloggies&Itemid=66