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How to Raise an Avid Reader

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As an avid reader and an English teacher, allow me to share with you some methods to get your offspring to pick up a book and cultivate a love for the printed word in three easy steps:

1. Make sure there is lots of material – don't discriminate, don't judge.
Obviously, you will have to have material around. It is no good nagging someone to “go read” when there is nothing that interests them in the house. And DON'T dictate what a good book is. Accept that a good book is anything that the reader is interested in. Treat your children's book choices the way you would treat their movie choices – after a certain age, you should leave them pretty much to their own devices.

Make sure that you don't belittle their choices, no matter how childish you feel the book is. Even at 30, I am reading and enjoying “children's” books with a total of less than 50 words. Sometimes the best stories are told with a minimum of words – Shel Silverstein and Dr. Suess are perfect examples of such writers.

Granted, books are pricey, but you can always go to the local libraries to borrow from a huge selection. Just because a book is not the latest best-selling teen read does not mean it is boring. Alternatively, cultivate e-reading. Yes, your children probably spend more time than you like on their electronic devices so download ebooks.

Personally, I never buy a book until I have tested it out – either by borrowing a copy from a friend or reading the ebook version. When I do decide to buy a book, I go to bookdepository.com. Delivery is free and the books are extremely affordable!

Books are NEVER a bad investment. Some people object because they think that it is a waste of money to spend so much on something that you only read once. A good book is NEVER just read ONCE.

2. Have someone to share with.
A lot of the fun of watching television programmes is being able to talk about why a character did what they did or how dastardly / annoying / funny that character is. I think that this is one of the fundamental things people forget about trying to get their children / students to pick up a book: Half the fun of a hobby is being able to share it.

As an English teacher, I try to get students to read something and then recommend it to their friends. It's tough going for the first few weeks (because we only have one hour a week in class, they read slow and I don't have multiple copies of everything) but it is great at the end when they are telling each other things like, “Baca yang ani – SIOK!!” or, “Berijab this one,” or, “Memberi kesian ah!” I also talk to them about the books they have read so they can discuss it with someone before their friends are ready to talk about it with them. It's awesome to watch happen.

But you don't have to be an English teacher to show genuine interest in what your child is reading. Just casual questions will do. Or, if your child asks you to read something, don't brush them off with an excuse. Make the effort to share.

Ghandi put it best: Be the change you want to see.

3. Reading is not work.
Always remember, READING IS NOT WORK. You don't want your young reader to associate reading with work or a chore of any kind. This means, they shouldn't have to meticulously record the number of pages they are reading per day. As an avid reader, I can assure you that there is no faster to kill the very habit you are trying to cultivate.

Also, do NOT put your readers through the third degree, “Who were the main characters and why did you like them?”, “Summarise the plot in 100 words”. Ugh... Even I shudder at these questions. Your children get enough of these types of questions in school. Why would anyone voluntarily CHOOSE to do this at home for fun?

Remember, show GENUINE interest. Don't fake it. We can tell.

If you insist on some kind of a record, make it fun and keep it minimal. Have pretty forms that are easy to fill in – tick the words that describe what you just read (scary, boring, sad, funny, rude, really really boring, so exciting I couldn't put it down, etc) – and have them stick the review in an old desk organiser. That's what my mum had me do when I was seven. I would write the title, author and give each book a rating out of five stars. As I got older, I decided to include a few more comments on my own.

If a book turns out boring, don't insist that they finish it. Again, use the movie rule. If they are halfway through a programme and change the channel, do you object and insist they finish watching it even if it is boring?

And...that's it! Three simple steps to raising your own reader.


1150319 10200756948498558 2074737976 nAbout the Contributor: Joyce is a dedicated teacher at a Sixth Form centre in Brunei where she daily entreats, begs, threatens, cajoles and teases her students in an attempt to develop their skills in the English Language. She is a self-confessed bibliophile and excessive book addict who enjoys doodling, diving once every school holiday, messing about with bits of paper and string, and dancing in her car at traffic lights. In her free time, she annoys her fighting fish and long-suffering hamster who oversee her day to day adventures. She plagiarises from the Pixar cartoon “Up” to remind everyone that, “Adventure is out there!” and from Tae Joon in “A Beautiful You” to say, “Miracle is just another word for effort.”

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