When parents tell me ‘My kid doesn’t read, what to do?’ I usually ask them if they read. Some laugh out aloud at the quaint notion of themselves as readers, while others look thoughtful and ask if I meant Chicken Soup for the Parent’s Soul. When I say ‘No,’ they reply cheerfully, ‘Then no, I don’t read. But I’d reeeallly like my kid to read!’
So I explain that to inspire their kids to read, they need to get excited about reading themselves. They look shattered. Obviously I should have said something sensible like ‘Soak three newspapers overnight, blend and pour into a purple glass and then pour into your child’s mouth while holding his nose shut and praying to the sun. You can be sure that he will begin reading on the sixth day!’
Unfortunately, human beings are essentially apes, and we learn by imitation. Little apes watch grown-up apes to figure out what is edible and what is not, what is to be loved and what is not. So if parents value shopping, video games and trips to the mall above all other activities, chances are their kids will too. If parents love football and hiking, chances are their kids will too. And typically, if parents read, chances are, their kids will read too.
So yes, mums-and-dads, the only thing that will get your kid excited about books is you getting excited about them. If you don’t read but genuinely want your kid to, here are some suggestions: buy interesting, age-appropriate books, and read them out to your child. If he or she is too young to get the ‘reading’, then tell the tale. Dramatically, with a sense of fun. While keeping a watch out for signs of engagement and/or boredom. Talk about books, spend money on buying them (yes, that is key) — you could, like us, also trawl through secondhand stores. While your jaw might lock with boredom, chances are your kid might get into a reading habit.
And who knows, maybe it’ll make a happy reader out of you too!