It’s news to nobody that as parents and guardians we have an enormous influence on our children’s behaviour. What is interesting is that they will follow the examples we set as readily, probably more so, than any instructions or advice we give. This means we need to set ourselves up as reading role models. It increases the likelihood of them engaging in books in a meaningful way far more than if we force them to sit and read without demonstrating through our own actions what an absolute joy a good book can be.
When they see us reading, children become curious about what we’re doing, about what has grabbed our attention in this manner. They want to join in, or else imitate, and it’s surprising how often me sitting with a book quickly results in the girls doing the same, independently. And, wow, when it happens, I just love that. One minute they’re thundering around, leaving a trail of destruction in their wake, they see me sitting quietly reading and the next minute all is quiet and we’re lost in our little worlds.
Goodness me, they are just cute as buttons when they’re seriously thumbing through their books, studying the pages with quiet concentration, enjoying the texts upside down and back to front. The little furrowed brows, the tracing of shapes and letters, the dramatic turning of a page, these things are a delight for me to surreptitiously watch.
You see, the time they spend sitting with a book on their own is just as important as the time I spend reading with them. They’re showing an interest without me overtly directing their attention. No, they’re not ‘reading’ in the traditional sense, but they’re following the narrative, inferring and deducing from the pictures, and getting a feel for independent exploration of texts. They have ownership over the activity, instilling good reading habits and increasing their confidence, all triggered by seeing a good example and wanting to imitate.
If I didn’t read and enjoy books, I am certain it would be an awful lot harder to convince them to do it, especially as they get older and begin to question what they are told. That’s why during the day I make sure that my girls see me reading regularly, whether it’s a novel, a magazine or something hideously practical like a tumble drier instruction booklet that may, just may, mean I don’t shrink any more clothes. I will continue to set this example as they grow, not just because I feel that I should, but because I want to.
If you aren’t already, I urge you to give it a try, especially if you’re noticing your little one becoming reluctant to engage with books. I know it’s hard to find time to sit down. I too feel the call of the washing up that needs to be done, the drier with its shrunken clothes that needs emptying, the dinner that needs making and the crumbs that need hoovering.
I also know that both they and I will benefit from a brief moratorium, a break in the bustle and mechanics of day to day life, to sit, read and think. My stillness quickly transfers to them and we all take a breath, have a read, escape reality for a bit and then charge headlong back into our day, having experienced something valuable and enjoyable.