The range of screens that command the attention of our children (and ourselves) is endless. We have smartphones, TVs, tablets, consoles and computers to name but a few. There is rarely a moment when ephemeral images aren’t flashing on a screen somewhere near our eyes.
For parents who hope their children will become voracious readers, the ubiquitous usage of electronic devices can pose a threat. Watching TV or endlessly scrolling through the abyss that is social media and the internet has become the easier and preferred option for children keeping themselves entertained.
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But thankfully it does not have to be so. We have put a list of tips together that will help parents encourage their children turn off the screens and pick up a book instead.
1. Read to them
Developing a relationship with reading from an early age is a great way to prevent a later addiction to screens. And it is never too early to start. Your child doesn’t have to be walking and talking to benefit from hearing you read stories and be comforted by the soft inflections of your voice. Research shows that the more words an infant is exposed to, the greater impact it will have on their literacy and language development. And if they are unaware of the content, you can read whatever it is that interests you!
It is important to keep reading to your children when they get older too. Try to assign 30 minutes a day to reading together. You can cuddle up on the couch and read to your child or read your own books side by side. For many families bedtime is the usual routine reading time. While it is a wonderful way to wind down and send the kids off to sleep, reading should also be encouraged during the day as an enjoyable activity.
If you have to work late or have a date night, get your babysitter to read to your kids so they have their reading time and are not sat in front of the television.
2. Set an example
You can’t expect your kids to keep their noses buried in books if they never see you do it yourself. Instead of keeping a phone or tablet in your hand while you move around the house, swap it for a book or newspaper. If you only read when you go to bed, your children won’t see you read often and they won’t emulate the behaviour. Reading with your children will turn their reading time into a comforting activity as opposed to a chore.
3. Go to the library
Take advantage of your local resources and visit a nearby library with your kids. Once you get an idea for the kind of books that most engage your child, make a list of names and authors and bring it to the library with you. Discovering these books with your child will become a great source of excitement.
Keep an eye out for child events in the library. Libraries often have storytelling sessions for kids or events such as a summer reading challenge. The latter is a great way to get your child excited and encourage them to read as many books as possible so they can watch their list grow with a wonderful sense of achievement. Also, librarians can provide a recommended list of children’s books for the appropriate ages.
4. Keep it fun
Pushing your child to read a particular book or making reading time seem like a chore are strong ways of discouraging your child’s love of reading. Many parents become frustrated when their child wants to reread the same book over and over but this is not something to worry about. It is perfectly normal in children and they will move on from it when they are ready.
If you are trying to get your teenager to engage more with reading, have someone they look up to, such as an older sibling or neighbour, to talk about how much they love a certain book and encourage the younger child to read it. If parents try to force a book on a teen there is little chance they will have any desire to read it.
5. Talk about books
Make conversation about what you are reading part of the daily family discussion. Dinner is usually the best time for this. Each member of the family can take turns to talk about what they are reading. Ask your child open-ended questions about the characters and places in their books. Even if you have read the story with them, allow them to tell you about what has happened as if it is a big surprise. This will help to create a sense of excitement around storytelling.
Children listening to their parents and other grown-ups talk about reading will help to develop their natural interest in books.
6. Monitor screen time
Time spent using screens is time not spent reading books. It is important to have daily ‘tech-free’ time in your family’s routine. Say no to screens during dinner and reading time. This will allow your family time to communicate with each other and talk about what you are reading. It will also give your children 30 minutes of uninterrupted reading time before or after the meal.
It is recommended to keep the TV and computer in the shared space of the house so you can easily monitor your children’s online behaviour. This also means that they can’t be sneakily watching the TV during reading time.
Do you have any tips for getting your kids to read books?
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