Help your little one get the most out of books and make reading a fun past time he’ll enjoy for the rest of his life.
1. Cultivate an Enquiring Mind
“Ask specific questions to engage them in the reading process to stimulate creative, active thinking and to expand vocabulary,” says Kylie Bell, director of research at Mindchamps. For instance, before reading, you can start by asking “What does the front cover picture tell us?”, she suggests. As your child gets into the story, you could raise more questions such as “What do you think might happen next?” or “I wonder why…?” After your kid has finished the book, discuss it with him by posing various scenarios: What could have happened if…? What else does this story make you think about…? Imagine if you could make a new ending to the story, what would it be? Do you have a favourite part? Discussing topics in the book also reinforces your child’s understanding of what he’s reading without making him feel like he’s being interrogated, adds Kylie.
2. Pause… before you leap in
When asking questions during your book discussions, resist the temptation to jump in with your own opinions before your kid can even respond. “Wait three seconds to give your child time to think of a response,” says Kylie. Also, remember that there’s no right or wrong with these questions. The thinking process is the most important.
3. Visualise the words
Inspire your child to create pictures in his mind in response to what he reads. Ask him about the images that pop up in his head as he reads that sentence or you could even extend reading into a drawing and arts and crafts activity, where your child doodles or creates little models of what he imagines the scenes in the book to be.
4. Emotions make it real
Stories can evoke emotions. Draw out your child’s response to the story by getting him to read it out loud. Doing so helps him identify even more with the characters and make reading an interactive experience. Or act it out – throw in facial expressions, gestures, hand movements and action. “Encourage your children to retell stories by using props to make them interesting,” suggests Raneetha Rajaratnam, senior manager, Public Library Services, National Library Board.
5. Telling it their way
Or recreate a new adventure altogether by getting your kids to re-write or re-tell their version of the story. For example, if he’s reading a book on wizards, get him to conjure up a short story on what he imagines his make-believe sorcerers might get up to instead.
6. Make a selection
“Introduce books of various themes and genres to your children,” says Raneetha. Reading a wide variety broadens their horizons, and opens them up to different words and pictures. Your boy goes for action books or stories on dinosaurs, while your girl reads about princesses? Get them to swop books. Reading a wide variety broadens their horizons, and exposes kids to different words and pictures.
7. Stretch the fun
Read the book, then watch the movie version, or vice versa. Seeing text come to live on the big screen is also a great motivator in getting your child excited about a book. Discuss which is better (the tome or the movie) or how they are different.
8. Read, then write
When your child does that, it helps reinforce what he has read. Help him write new or unfamiliar words into an exercise book kept for this purpose. Look them up together in a dictionary, then ask him to write the meanings and definitions, before making his own sentences using those words. Reading becomes even more enriching as his vocabulary increases.
9. Turn it into a game
The National Library has a game called Quest, which uses collectible cards to cultivate a greater love of reading, particularly among boys aged 7-12 (visit quest.pl.sg for more information). At home, devise your own language game with words from a book. Perhaps you can ask your child to pick up sets of rhyming words, then create a poem, limerick or verse with them. Raneetha offers another game: “Play charades with your children based on their favourite characters or phrases from storybooks.”
10. Let’s get together
Join a book club and your child gets to meet other readers, share opinions and ideas, and learn about new books, authors and genres. Being able to discuss stories in a like-minded group also helps foster his self-confidence and communication skills. The Children’s Reading Club at public libraries, for one, introduces interactive activities that encourage reading and basic story-writing skills. It’s targeted at children aged nine and above, and is held during the mid- and year-end school holidays. Membership is free but you have to sign up at firstname.lastname@example.org, as places are limited.
By Wyn-Lyn Tan, Young Parents PreSchool Guide, 2014