5 Tips for Raising Readers

  
“My baby won’t sit still and read.”

“My baby just chews on books.”

“My baby is too young to understand.”

“I sound silly reading aloud to my baby.”

These are the top most common statements I hear from parents who don’t read daily with their children. Often, these parents know that reading is important for a child to develop literary skills and they do want their children to develop good reading habits. However, the reasons they give stop them from reading daily with their little ones. 

Whenever my friends tell me any of the above reasons, I urge them not to give up and simply keep trying. 

1.  Start young

I never quite understand why it’s too early to read to babies simply because they won’t understand. It’s not as if we stop talking to babies because they won’t understand us. The whole point of speaking and reading to them is so they get used to our voices, pick up vocabulary as they grow and learn communication skills. It’s NEVER too early to read to the little ones. If they won’t sit still to look at the pages, so be it. They haven’t got the attention span but they can still hear you speak the words. 

2. Make it a routine

To encourage reading, make it part of their daily lives. Many people encourage reading at bedtime. I recommend reading whenever your child is in the best mood for it. It could be in the morning, afternoon or before going to bed. In our home, I try to do it 3 times a day. We have two piles of books by the bed which we read in the morning and night time. It’s really nice to snuggle up close to read a few books before starting the day. In the day, we read by the bookshelf in the living room and we spend about 30 to 45 minutes just reading and looking through books. 

3. Let your child pick the book

I make sure my son has easy access to his books. He’s free to pull them off the shelves and flip the pages. Paperbacks are placed higher up and can only be read under adult supervision because he is not exactly the most gentle being on earth. He gets to pick whatever book and I’ll read them to him. It doesn’t matter if he decides on a different book after I’ve read a couple of pages. I let him take the lead.

4. Make it fun

Go beyond the print on the pages! Make silly noises because kids love it when you make a fool out of yourself. Be animated, and ask questions. Even if you’re reading to a baby, ask questions and provide the answers. One fine day, he or she will respond positively and you’ll feel so rewarded. 

5. Keep reading

Don’t give up just because your child doesn’t seem interested. Who cares if you sound or look silly reading The Very Hungry Caterpillar out loud surrounded by your own four walls? If you do it often enough, you’ll soon know what your child likes and dislikes, and how to get his/her attention. 

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A Visit to Ah Ma by Xiao Kuang (小邝)

  

Bilingualism is definitely something we strive for in our family. I grew up speaking both English and Mandarin in Singapore. I do not believe that exposing a child to more than one language slows his speech development or causes any sort of confusion that messes their little brilliant minds up. In today’s shrinking world, knowing a second language will come in as an asset in the future. However, exposing Theo to Mandarin also means giving him an insight to Chinese culture and half his roots. 

One of our tasks in Singapore whilst we’re on holiday is to get excellent Chinese materials for Theo. I’m fortunate that Singapore is a heaven for looking for great books. At Kinokuniya Book Store, we found him A Visit to Ah Ma, a Chinese book with local context and Pin Yin.

An imaginative boy, who clearly loves his grandmother a lot, dreams of visiting her. He pretends to be a skilled doubler decker bus driver. His journey to his grandmother’s is full of adventures as traffic lights and zebra crossings come to live. 

The illustrations depicted in the book of those of scenes in Singapore – Marina Bay Sands, the Esplanade, Singapore Flyer, HDB flats and so on.

This is such a great book for Theo who will be turning one next month. Apart from exposing him to Mandarin, I’ll be able to point out landmarks in Singapore to him and talk about them.