It’s rainy season here in Nigeria and – at the same time – it’s also long vacation (whoever had the idea to let children out of school at the very time when they would most likely be trapped in the house has a lot to answer for). Still, while the storm rages outside, we must find a way to get the kids through the wet.
It’s easy to turn on the television or plop the kids in front of a video game – when there’s electricity – but it’s much better to get them to read a book. Now I know there are many “reasons” we have for not doing this: Our kids don’t like to read, or there aren’t enough affordable children’s books out there, but we know these are just excuses.
The benefits of reading for children have been proven over and over again and this is the perfect season finally get them into the habit. So, I’m here to offer all you parents out there, some ways to get your kids to read – especially when they don’t want to.
- Make it mandatory – From practicing a musical instrument to doing chores, the surest way to get a child to do what they don’t want to do is to make it a standing order. Try trading a minor chore or lesson for some reading time: You don’t have to make your bed, if you read every day. Or set aside a reading period, a few hours every day where no one is allowed to do anything but read.
- Make it fun – Pick out books that they would like. Adventures stories, romances, and reference books with lots of colourful pictures are things that kids love. You can even find books based on their favourite TV series.
- It doesn’t have to be a book – Comic books, atlases, newspapers and magazines all count as reading. And the pleasure they get from those kinds of reading can easily translate into longer texts and more complicated books.
- Get involved – It’s not enough to give them a book and send them to their rooms, you have to get involved as well. Ask your kids questions about what they are reading. Get them to play games like inventing new endings for the books or new characters for the stories. You can even ask them to put on a mini-play based on what they’ve read.
- Buy books as presents instead of toys – The only way to get your kids to read, is to make sure that there are books available. Often, we are comfortable buying expensive toys and video games for our children, but balk at spending the same amount on a book. There are a wide range of Nigerian and African books for kids and teens on the market right now. Cassava Republic’s children’s books go for as little as N400, but if that’s too much for your budget, Lantern Books has an early readers’ series that start at N200. And they are available all over the country.
- Make it your job – Sorry to say, but as a parent, it’s your job – not the school’s or the teacher’s – to find books and motivate your kids to make sure they read them. So try to take this job as seriously as you do your work at the office. Remember, if we want to improve our nation’s reading culture, we as parents need to be the change we wish to see.
For some more tips for readers of all ages, visit: