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A mother chronicles her journey of creating a habit of reading books in her daughter, from the discipline required to sit for a length of time, and the love she found in her while doing it.
Reading is an art. The impulse to read should flow from one’s soul and heart without any compulsions and expectations, only then the essence of reading can be enjoyed, thoroughly. Being a voracious reader myself, I agree with this. However, I would like to raise a question. Is it okay to mould or teach a child to get into the habit of reading? I am sure this would invite different opinions as the views on this subject varies widely. Anything that is forced will never help. Agreed. But, based on my experience with my daughter, instilling this regular reading time in her routine has benefited her.
To start with, my daughter is one such happy soul who loves to play and jump all the time. So anything that would demand a discipline to sit and focus will be resisted with a big no. I used to read to my daughter before her bed time but couldn’t maintain it consistently.
Finally, I decided to frame a half an hour reading routine on a daily basis with the below plan.
The plan seemed simple and straight forward. In fact, I felt so proud of myself and started to dream that the reading time would become the most beautiful time of the day.
Then the reality struck. The first day when we sat down to read, my daughter was so excited. But then after the first few minutes, she got the crux of the program. The resistance started exactly after the 5th minute. She whined, turned grumpy, asked for repeated breaks, kept diverting to the pictures and refused to come back to read. After 15 minutes, my patience crossed the threshold and I screamed at her asking her to focus. That’s it. End of story. She cried and I couldn’t take it anymore and the most beautiful reading time came to a close with a thud. The way her face lit up when I said that the reading time is over, Oh My God, was so soulful!
The next day I was not sure if I could continue. I sought online help but got confused further as the opinions varied widely. Of course I do know that anything related to a child is absolutely subjective but I was not able to come to a conclusion. Finally, I decided to try for a week as I did not want to give up in one day’s time.
The second day the way my daughters face darkened when I called her for the reading time is still so fresh in my mind. I felt so bad. But then I smiled and promised that I will not shout and be kind forever and ever. The reading on the second day came to a close by the 8th minute as I was not able to keep her focus. She kept gazing at the pictures and came back to read only after few minutes and ended up reading the wrong sentence or rereading the whole sentence again. My blood started to boil and I decided to bring the reading time to a close rather than shouting and carrying the guilt.
I somehow managed to pull through the whole week without much results. I was quiet skeptical about continuing but realised that the resistance to sit down and read had decreased a bit. Holding on to this tiny bit of hope I continued.
In the subsequent weeks the emotions went through lots of ups and downs. It was not very easy but then I observed progress in one thing or the other every passing week. Some weeks it was a total flop and some weeks I saw a decent progress.
Days, weeks and months passed and I think somewhere in the 6th month, we did sit for the whole 30 minutes to read for the first time. Its been 9 months since I started this reading time and I should say it has been one hell of a journey. Today she stands at the capacity of reading a maximum of 10 pages within 30 minutes. Of course she whines, turns grumpy, takes frequent breaks, and takes every single opportunity to bunk the reading time. Despite all this there is an improvement in her language, our personal relationship, my level of tolerance and our chemistry.
In this process I started to understand her capacity, attitude and styles. I changed a lot too. Today I do know that she is a decent reader but sitting in a single place for 30 minutes is not her cup of tea.
So based on my experience across these 9 months I have listed down some of the primary things that I went through and how I dealt with it;
The first and foremost trait any parent would require is Patience. If I think about the tactics used by my daughter in retrospect it would look so cute and funny. But then during the course of reading all that cuteness disappears and all I see is recklessness, deceit and wrong-attitude.
My daughter would ask a question like, ‘What is Christmassy’? Once I clarify, she would drag that topic on and on and refuse to come back to read the next word.
Sometimes she would ask the meaning of each and every word including ‘is’, ‘and’, ‘go’ etc. or feel thirsty after every single sentence or request to the loo for almost 4 to 5 times or intentionally keep yawning or keep rolling, pushing, scratching and moving up and down and left and right trying to show her discomfort or would intentionally stop in a word and keep looking at it to pass the time.
And this list goes on and on. In the initial days, I would reprimand her which would end up in crying and stopping the reading time abruptly.
So I hardly succeeded in making her read a page. This went on a repeat, till I realised I have to exercise patience.
I realised that I am over reacting and relaxed myself from being rigid and learned to laugh. I got down from my adult mind and put on the hat of a kid to allow the empathy to creep in. Above all, a little patience to everything made things wonderful. It was not easy, but worth all the try.
Kids have their own unique style to resist the things they don’t want to do. When I think about the tactics used by my 7-year-old, sometimes I used to wonder that I am so dumb that I can’t match up with the finest ideas that she comes up with to run away from the reading. There will be resistance in one way or the other and the best way to handle it is through patience.
The more inflexible we are the more easily this routine would become a history. Being rigid to the timeframe and enforcing too much concentration simply builds the child’s hatred towards reading. The more I became flexible towards the timing, breaks, patience to reread, the more she started to engage.
This makes for wonders and of course kids will tend to misuse it as this is the only obvious get away. But gradually this can be fine tuned to a win-win policy. For a 30 minutes reading time 4 breaks is an ideal thing. Mix it up to fit in your style.
Its easy to teach the kids if we are familiar with Phonics and it increases the ease and comfort. Make use of tutorial videos in you tube and e-materials.
When we have a time-boxed frame, we usually tend to rush up. I focussed so much to make her read rather than enjoy. But as days passed by, I observed and understood that a child’s nature is to see the pictures more to get the story than by reading. Once that realisation struck me, things became better. I allowed her to gaze at the pictures to her heart’s content. Sometimes this enabled us to read only a page or less than a page. But this increased her eagerness to sit and read. It also stimulated her imagination, as she was able to relate the words to the pictures and add her own level of comprehension on the same.
A strict No to TV, Phones and Tablets. Getting the attention of my daughter is a great deal and missing the sentences and words is a usual thing. So I started to point my fingers to the sentence she was reading which saved time to start from the place where she left. Every child has their capacity in a whole different way. So there is nothing wrong in aiding our child. As long as its enables and makes the process smooth, accept and adapt to it.
Also, refrain from talking to the other members of the family. The more the child listens to what he or she is reading, the more comfortable they become.
The best thing my daughter loves about this reading session is the rewards. I have ‘Stars’ and ‘Smiley’ stickers, which I stick to her knuckles and cheeks every time she finishes a paragraph or a page or reads a difficult word correctly or reads the punctuation without remainder. She gets a toy and some pennies every time she finishes a book. I am generous about the stickers but then I give her a toy or penny only if she finishes the book completely.
Social network played an important role in encouraging me. I took inspiration from few of my close friends on the choice of books and the importance of cultivating this habit. I am also part of reading groups where I get various ideas about the books and reading techniques. I take those ideas and and fit in those which works very well for me and my girl.
Its easy to fall into the trap of ‘comparison’. It’s a very thin line and we should be really careful about that. The exposure we get from the social network, peers etc. should never be pushed on our child. We should be very clear that every single child is absolutely unique in their own way and the way they grasp and progress is subjective. There is no single thing that can be generalised. So comparing with kids of the same age group with their progress would only do harm. Never take this as a competition. It’s a personal thing. Its okay if our child takes three months to read a 10-page book. Sometimes they may seem to be stagnating, but the truth is very much different. Trust your child, no matter what.
Difficult words, tricky words like through- though- thought, words with apostrophe, reading the sentences with expressions of the punctuation and giving a finishing tone to the full stops and question marks and many more takes time. Have the heart and patience to repeat and teach it to the child again and again. Sometimes the repetition frustrates us as we hardly see the results. But treat this routine as a ‘Love treat’. Our reading time turned much better when I changed my attitude with regard to repeated mistakes.
The more I accepted her difficulties and made myself flexible to teach her repeatedly the more she became comfortable in trying words by herself without any inhibitions and feels free to ask my help without any hesitation.
Kids love appreciation. Be generous. Words like ‘Wow’, ‘Super’, ‘Great’, ‘Amazing ‘and gestures like claps, kisses, hugs, hi-fis makes for wonders with kids.
We give up because we do not see any improvement. The kid sits to read with the same hatred, reads the sentences without any interest, reads the word incorrectly repeatedly, asks frequent breaks, requests to wind up before reading a page or even keeps the grumpy whining face for the whole session. This may put off our mood. Sometimes it would end up with a grandeur increase in the blood pressure.
But if we would tune our mind a little bit to see the positivity and focus our eyes to see that teeny-tiny bit of improvement every single day, we will see a magical refinement in our attitude.
Providing feedback is a kind of vitamin nourishment to the child. I would suggest that the feedback should be honest but at the same time conveyed in a positive way. ‘Well done! You finished 4 pages. But you should reduce the number of breaks and smile a lot more during reading, Okay?’ is what I gave today.
This reading time is not only about language and literature, it is also about personal relationship grooming. This half an hour has enabled me to get closer to my daughter. Through this routine, I was able to understand her likes, dislikes, wants, wishes, priorities, best friends and much more. Every single word that we read maps to the day-to-day incidents or imaginations of my daughter.
This has enabled me to know about her teachers, play time, food, relationship with her class mates etc.
There are days where the very first line would redirect to some stories from her school and the whole 30 minutes would fly away in a jiff, thereby ending the time by just reading a line.
There are other days where we would finish the 10 pages slot.
So it’s a mix and match. In either cases we win.
Unless you try, you will never know the outcome. When I actually started this routine, I was fed up by the second week. The reason being, I expected too much, behaved stringently, had zero fun element and saw no results.
Thankfully I was persistent. I took inspiration from my best friends and various other sources and kept rejuvenating my energy.
I understood the idea about bringing in flexibility. Mixing up the fun. Using encouraging words. I worked out every single thing I have listed above and needless to mention that I screwed up so many number of times. In the past 9 months’ things have become better. I know that reading time is still not a favourite activity for my daughter, but she keeps up with it grooming her language and her relationship with me. As for me, I would literally yearn for that half an hour time of the day and you all know, why?
I just want to add that this half an hour need not be the reading time, it can be the art time or writing time or maths time. I picked reading as I wanted to groom her in that habit. I don’t know if she would grow up to be a voracious reader and my objective is not that as well. But I am sure she will grow up pretty confident and would be able to read comfortably and this half an hour would be something we both would cherish in the future.
Image source: reading with a child by Shutterstock.
Dreamer. Reader. Traveller. Foodie. Lover of Life.
I create my world at dianajanetjoseph.wordpress.com
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