Back to School Series:
I distinctly remember loving story time with my mum but dreading story time with our elementary school librarian.
With mum, I could snuggle up next to her on the living room sofa, drink a cup of hot chocolate, watch her face light up as she neared the climax of the story, and lose myself in the magic of the moment.
But with our librarian, I had to sit on a hard floor, listen to a monotonous story read aloud by a strange lady with a stiff lip, and make sure not to budge for sixty painful minutes.
So, what’s the difference between these two scenarios?
1. Find Books that Your Child Loves
Mum knew how to make it an enjoyable experience, and my librarian didn’t have a clue.
My favourite books as a child were The Chronicles of Narnia by CS Lewis. Mum had a natural gift at making the story come to life as Lucy walked through the wardrobe and into the mysterious land of Narnia, where she stumbled upon the whimsical Mr Tumnus.
Our librarian, however, thought it was a good idea to read about the rustic lives of cowboys in southern Texas – a topic that seemed like an utter bore to a nine-year-old girl clothed in a dainty pink dress and a flowery headband.
Simply put, children will do what interests them, including reading or listening to books that they actually enjoy.
As argued by Reifman, children enjoy books more when they are related to their interests.
One of my younger cousins is fascinated by dinosaurs. Ever since I can remember, she has been able to cite more classifications of dinosaurs than I will ever be able to. When you walk into her bedroom, you see the shelves stacked with dinosaurs and, yes, books on dinosaurs that have been torn at the edges from overuse.
By contrast, my boyfriend spent his childhood years pouring into military history. He turned his bedroom into a military battle, which no one was allowed to touch – he wouldn’t dare reenact an anachronistic version of the events.
We all have unique interests, so let your child fall in love with his or hers. Instead of purchasing the books on your own, take them to the closest Chapters or Barnes & Noble. Maybe even treat them to a Starbucks hot chocolate – a perfect treat to accompany the first pages of their new book.
2. Make Reading a Shared Activity
Reading can also be a group activity. There is a beautiful scene in You’ve Got Mail that displays a picturesque version of how enjoyable shared reading can be. Kathleen Kelly (played by Meg Ryan) is the owner of a charming bookshop called The Shop Around the Corner. In the film, she refers to herself as the Storybook Lady, who routinely offers storytelling sessions to children in the neighbourhood. Flaunting a fairylike hat, she captivates the imagination of her young little audience.
You don’t need to wear a fairylike hat to make reading enjoyable for your child. But be creative. After all, reading is about letting your and your child’s imagination come to life.
Mascott also points out that shared reading is a great opportunity to dialogue with your child. Children’s stories are often packed with morals, so it might be a good idea to help them develop their understanding of life, of right and wrong, of how one bad decision can snowball into an utter disaster, among other life lessons.
3. Encourage Them To Read Out Loud
As discussed by Johnson, some children come to hate books because they hate reading out loud. If you have more than one child, it might a good idea to encourage the older sibling to practice reading out loud to the younger one.
I recall the day that my youngest sister suddenly interrupted a story that I was reading to her. To my surprise, she started reading it herself. I was speechless. But something happened in that moment. Though I did not realize it at the time, my love of reading had been passed down to my youngest sister. She realized that she too could join in on the fun.
4. Reading and Parenthood
Reading is not only a great way to help your child develop an academic skill. It also offers an opportunity for parents and children to connect, bond, and interact. The mental health of a child is intricately connected with the health of family dynamics. If you feel that your family is struggling with communication or the emotional health of your family may be at risk Family Counseling may be a great answer to equip you for the future.
Instead of trying to keep your child out of trouble by putting him or her in front of a TV screen, consider spending 20 minutes or so together – just you and your child, reading a book.
It might seem like an old-fashioned idea for the 21st century, but it is nonetheless a delightful way to spend an evening.
I will always be thankful for the stories that Mum read to me – much more than I am for PlayStation or the Cartoon Network.
 Reifman, S. 2011. 7 Ways to Encourage Reluctant Readers. [online] Available at: <http://www.stevereifman.com/featured-articles/for-parents/172-7-ways-to-encourage-reluctant-readers>
 Mascott. A. 2013. What to Do You’re your Children Hates Reading. PBS. [online] Available at: <http://www.pbs.org/parents/education/reading-language/reading-tips/what-to-do-when-your-child-hates-reading/>
 Johnson, L. 2013. 10 Reasons Nonreaders Don’t Read – And How to Change Their Minds. Scholastic. [online] Available at: <http://www.scholastic.com/teachers/article/10-reasons-nonreaders-dont-read-mdash-and-how-change-their-minds>