Can we recreate the Reading Generation in our Children?

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Late evening sunlight slanted through the forest trees. A chorus of birds and crickets chirped in the distance. A campfire, ringed by sleeping bags and canvas chairs, flickered in the dark. This was the scene of my old days when in school, reading was encouraged everywhere thanks to technology it wasn’t available then.

As a child, I have been there before – feeling the dread when a parent or educator told us to read a book. They may have assigned it for a school assignment or perhaps decided that they wanted the children in their lives to read more. Whatever the reason, being given a book, without much of a choice in the title, can be dreadful. Today I thank them in silence that I can write a blog and manage it all by my own.

Today, you may have young readers in your life who need a bit of encouragement with their reading. They can’t seem to find books they enjoy and, therefore, aren’t reading. When I see the deep thought and excitement that goes into their choices, my anxieties about the supposed demise of books disappear. I can attest that children love books and they love reading just as much as playing video games or watching YouTube. This is especially true when they are given the opportunity to choose for themselves what they will read, which is why I love the old library programs so much. In fact, many, many, many years ago, I came into possession of my first book, “The fly whisk” after which I read many other literatures including but not limited to writers like George Orwell, Chinua Chembe and many others.

Don’t worry! Here are some steps to engage children and introduce them to the joys of reading.

  1. Let Them Choose

First and foremost, put the power of choice in their hands! As children, we didn’t enjoy having someone else tell us what to read so why should we continue the pattern? With public libraries, school libraries, bookstores, digital resources, and beyond, putting children in the driver’s seat (not literally, safety first) is a great first step to having them engage with reading more deeply. When you are in an environment where children can choose the books, take a few steps back. Allow them to interact with the books and let them choose for themselves.

  1. Read With Them

Now that they’ve chosen books that they are excited to read, set an example! It’s important to read with children. Independent readers may want to exert their autonomy by reading by themselves. Make it a family event and take that time to read your own book. For younger readers, reading the book together is incredibly valuable! In some instances, bring the story alive by incorporating sounds or actions.

  1. Create Experiences

Better yet – create experiences! Similar to reading together, creating experiences is an excellent way to have engaged readers. Reading a book about nature? Take a trip to your local garden. Finding books about music and dancing do the trick? Find events at your local community center or turn to YouTube for videos on the history of music.

  1. Make Time For Distraction-Free Reading   

In a highly connected age, it is important to set a tone that reading is a priority. Block off time, perhaps before bed, without the distractions of phones, televisions, notifications, and beyond. Digital reading tools like tablets can be used for literacy and learning – just make sure the notifications are snoozed! Perhaps you and your young reader use a digital tool in the afternoons and books in the evenings when it’s time to wind down or incorporate a blue-light filter at night to help the mind settle.

Can we recreate the Reading Generation in our Children? Yes, a difficult question yet a possibility. I have a dream of supporting a library just to make sure that someone won’t miss that book whenever they want to. I pray that one day that dream will come true and I will be able to get it off my shoulders.

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