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Breeding Bookworms: Twelve Surefire Strategies

March, 2014
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- How to turn your Techno-Kid into a Bookworm
How do you turn your little techno-kid into an avid book-reader? It’s a simple matter of brainwashing! Your job is to prove to your child that Reading Books = Pleasure.
reading-aloud-to-childrenTop Tip No. 2 – Be a Good Role Model
Many parents of poor readers lay the blame on the school. But a child spends roughly 1,300 hours a year in school and 7,460 hours outside school. Which environment – home or school – has the bigger influence?

It’s time for a bit of soul-searching. How often do you sit down and read a book for pleasure? Because the primary ability of any child is imitation: a child will do what his parents do, no matter what they are saying. Children who see their parents watching TV or surfing the internet all day will grow up watching TV or surfing the internet all day themselves, because that is what they believe is normal. But kids who see mum and dad regularly reading for pleasure will read for pleasure as soon as they are able.


Now we’re all guilty of switching off the brain and switching on the tube when we get home. But what message are we sending to our kids? If we want our children to love reading, we must show that we love reading ourselves. And I can guarantee you that – just like taking up regular exercise – the first step is the hardest. It only takes a few hours buried in a wonderful book to rediscover how enormously pleasurable reading is and how effectively it reduces the stress of everyday life. As the great philosopher de Montesquieu observed, “I have never known any distress that an hour’s reading did not relieve.”
So how do you model reading to your kids? Here are just a few suggestions:
Make reading a book your regular choice in the evenings, and turn on the television only for specific programs.
Turn off the Internet. Haven’t you used it enough all day?
Leave the books you are reading lying around as a constant reminder to your child of how important they are to you.
Read things that interest or amuse you out loud to the family.
Talk about the books you are reading at the dinner table (and improve the quality of conversation at the same time!)
Treat books with respect: hold and care for them in a way that shows they are special.
Talk about what you read as a child. All kids love to hear about what their parents did when they were young.
Buy books for yourself regularly and let your child know that you do it.
The world of books is a glorious one that so many adults have forgotten. Let your quest to turn your child into a bookworm return you to that magical place.
Top Tip No.3 – The Magic of Reading Aloud
Make no mistake: reading aloud to your child is THE single most effective way to create a great reader.
Study after study has proven that reading aloud to children improves their reading, writing, speaking and listening and, most of all, their attitude to reading.
Babies and pre-schoolers whose parents read to them regularly start school with a huge head start and this advantage persists right through primary school and beyond – but it’s never too late to start reading to your child to reap huge benefits.
As the late great Jim Trelease points out in his seminal work The Read Aloud Handbook:
Reading aloud to your child massively builds his vocabulary, comprehension and general knowledge, usually at least two years beyond his age range.
It demonstrates to your child that you think books are important.
It builds your child’s attention span significantly.

Most important of all, your child’s brain will be conditioned to associate reading with pleasure. Books = time with Mummy and/or Daddy = love.


You can start reading aloud to a child when it’s in the womb! Hearing is the first sense to develop, and the sound and cadence of your voice can be heard when a child is still just a foetus. As your baby grows into a toddler, she will learn the conventions of reading (left to right, top to bottom), that printed words have meaning and even at this early stage she will gain vocabulary. But don’t stop reading to your children when they gain reading independence – even teenagers enjoy being read to if you pick books that pique their interest (you’ll probably enjoy them too!).
Always try to read something that’s a little older than your child can read for himself. You’ll be surprised at how much more a child can understand when it’s read aloud by an adult, and you’ll be on hand to explain difficult words or concepts.
Make reading aloud a treasured part of your child’s bedtime routine.
Make it special! Shut down your cell phone, television and computer screen.
Make it fun! Do funny voices for the characters and supply sound effects together, like bells ringing, doors opening and aliens exploding!
Discuss the pictures.
Ask your child what they think will happen next.
Above all, don’t let your child think that you think it’s a chore. Remember, it’s your job to prove that READING = FUN.
Obviously parents are best for the job. Especially, in this age where boys are reading less, fathers: boys do what dads do. But if you’re away, or just too busy, there’s always help at hand. Older siblings will be very proud to show off their reading skills, grandparents are fabulous story readers and guests can also be roped in for a fun half hour.
Read aloud to your children every day and watch them blossom rapidly as keen and confident readers. And who knows, you could end up having a lot of fun!
Books Sarah recommends for reading aloud:
hairy-maclaryFor ages 4 to 6: Hairy McLary from Donaldson’s Dairy by Dame Linley Dodd – If you haven’t yet met the feisty little terrier hero of these wonderful stories in rollicking rhyme then you’re in for a rare treat (and so are the kids of course!). I fell in love with these stories as an adult – they’re witty, clever and enormous fun to read aloud.
the-borrowersFor ages 7 to 9: The Borrowers by Mary Norton – no child could fail to be entranced by this classic about the adventures of 6 inch high Arrietty and her family, who live inside the walls of human’s houses. It’s a magical story, perfect for stimulating a child’s imagination, with chapters just the right length for reading aloud, one per night.
wolf-brotherFor ages 10 to 12: Wolf Brothers by Michelle Paver – the first in a fascinating series set in the Stone Age, The Chronicles of Darkness, which follows the adventures of an adolescent boy Torak and his wolf friend, and their hazardous quest to defeat the evil Soul Eaters. A great read aloud which Dads especially will enjoy.
For adults: The Read Aloud Handbook, Jim Trelease, 7th Ed’n, Isbn 978-0143121602
By Sarah Brennan
Author of the best-selling Chinese Calendar Tales and Dirty Story series. Her latest book, The Tale of A Dark Horse, is now available online and in China from Blue Fountain Books. Visit Sarah’s website at www.sarah-brennan.com and blog at www.sarahbrennanblog.com.


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