What I remember from my childhood about reading is that I had to read many books that I didn’t like and understand. For example, I remember reading “Heart” by Edmondo De Amicis and I didn’t like it at all although it is a great classic. I don’t remember how old I was but it was probably too early for me to read a 300-page novel. Of course, there were books that influenced me very positively, but I think the strategies that were followed for me to love reading were so wrong.
I love reading at the moment, but I think it is not because it has become a habit; it is because, as I grow up, my awareness about how important reading is has increased and I love learning new things. I believe that I would have become a better reader if it had become a habit when I was a child.
My son is 10 years old. When he was 5, I said to him: “When you learn reading, you will be able to buy all the books you want.”
“All the books?” he asked. “Yes, all the books.” I answered. This answer surprised him very much, because there is certainly a limit in everything he wants to buy. Except books.
Although I sometimes want to, I’ve never told him what books to read. We always spend very long hours in bookshops. He always makes his own decisions about which book to buy. If he asks my opinion, I tell him what I think. Before we buy a book, our only condition is to read the first three pages of the book. If he thinks if he will like the book after those three pages, he can buy it. At first, he read series like ‘The Diary of a Wimpy Kid’, adventure books, and footballers’ lives. And, this weekend, he bought “Heart” without me telling him how great that book is:) I’m sure he is going to love it because he made the decision to read it.
It is much more important that he loves reading than the scores he gets from the exams. Stephen Krashen’s ideas about reading shaped my beliefs and thanks to him I applied a correct strategy, and Ata loves reading so much. You can see the video of one of his talks on this page. He also shares lots of articles on his personal website.
It is not always possible to do the right things while raising your child. Even if the strategies sound great, it is not always practical to apply them in real life because of different reasons. Therefore, I am very happy that I could do the right thing for Ata and he loves reading.
Now that we have so many books at home, the next step will be sharing those books with other children who have limited access to books. I am not the one who will make this decision. I will create the context and let him decide to share so that he can also feel the pleasure of sharing.
At this point, I have some suggestions for educators:
- If there is a reading list, make the list very carefully. Take the age and the interests of your students into consideration. If possible, let your students choose their own books.
- Writing book reports must be optional, otherwise reading might be a nightmare for many students.
- Design more creative book report templates. You can take a look at these links for some ideas:
10 Technology Enhanced Alternatives to Book Reports
Ten Great Creative Book Report Ideas
- Encourage your students to use the library. You can plan fun activities for this. (treasure hunt, a night in the library, etc.)
- Establish a daily sustained silent reading time (10-20 mins) , and don’t let anything interrupt this time. It is very important that you read during this period, too.
My suggestions for parents:
- Do not force your child to read the books you want. Just think that somebody is doing it to you!
- Remember that children who read a lot are more successful at school.
- Before your child learns reading, read to him/her at least three times a week. After s/he learns reading, continue this habit. You can also ask him/her to read to you, but s/he shouldn’t see this as an obligation.You can choose books that you will both enjoy reading.
- Help your child understand that reading is important by letting him/her see you reading regularly.
- Do not ask your child to do reading at the times he wants to do other activities. This makes reading an unwanted activity. Reading is a fun activity!
- Encourage your child to share the books s/he read with his/her friends or you may consider to donate your books after reaching a certain number. Another alternative is that your child can sell his/her books at a second hand market and you can donate the money to NGOs.
I strongly recommend both parents and educators to watch what Prof. Stephen Krashen says. You can watch the video of one of his talks here: