Transmitting the pleasure of reading to children

Reading stories out loud to newborns and continue even after they learn to read by themselves is the best recipe to prepare children for reading. All kinds of stories with illustrations and pictures from a large variety of books from fiction to poetry and if and when possible, reading in different languages. This not only enables them to bond with parents and relate to emotions but also to develop language and listening skills. I believe it is essential to seek balance between guiding them, helping them associate letters, words with images, objects, and sounds and at the same time allowing space for their imagination to be nourished. Enhancing access to knowledge, reading expands the understanding of the world and this is why discussing stories and letting children voice their questions is important.

However, reading is not only a practical and educational tool, it is also about the pleasure of discovering other worlds, letting go and playing. There is also the pleasure of holding a book as a beautiful object, turning pages, feeling the paper, unfolding adventures. Reading grounds us, trains our concentration capacities and it can be a beautiful alternative to reduce watching screens. It’s not about denying kids access to technology but about holding it at bay as much as possible.

Of course, the challenge of encouraging reading among children changes with age. The most efficient way to keep this going is by reading ourselves. It is important for them to see the significant place books have all over the house, to see their parents read newspapers, books, comics, journals and magazines and also to hang out in book shops and libraries. Parents should let children choose to read what they feel like reading without insisting about a story or another. Some of them enjoy reading the same book over and over again. After all, it’s the act of reading that counts.

Each and every one needs to find the way that suits his situation best. I personally read stories to my children during the day or at bed time when I feel that I can be fully present in that space and time. Children are very sensitive and they definitely feel it when we do just do things out of habit or out of pleasure. For me, reading and reading to others has to be above all, a pleasure and not something to be imposed. Although reading is a crucial part of education, I believe that the best transmission of all is that of the pleasure of reading, reading for pleasure.

Initially published in Arabic in February 2019 issue 4 of “Al Nasher Al Usboei”, (Publisher Weekly), by Sharjah Book Authority. Managing Editor, Ali Al Ameri.