You may have tangible wealth untold:
Caskets of jewels and coffers of gold.
Richer than I you can never be –
I had a mother who read to me.
‘The Reading Mother’ by Strickland Gillilan
We all agree that Reading is at the heart of Education. The knowledge of almost every subject flows from reading. One must be able to read the mathematical or science problem to solve it. A computer or any gadget manual has to be read not viewed.
Reading is the ultimate weapon to destroy ignorance, poverty and despair before they destroy us. A nation that does not read much, does not know much; and a nation that does not know much ends up making poor / wrong choices at home / marketplace / government offices / judiciary / the voting booth.
Reading is the single most important activity every family must have as part of their daily ritual. It is the road to being knowledgeable and well versed in any topic. While reading aloud to a child, you pour into a child’s ears and the brain, all the sounds, syllables, endings and blending that will make up the words s/he will someday be asked to read and understand. Through stories we fill the background knowledge necessary to understand things that are not in the vicinity – whales / robots / rockets / solar system.
Developing the reading habit starts from the time the mother conceives and reads out aloud to the child in the womb. What a parent sends into the ‘ear’ becomes the ‘sound’ foundation for the child’s brain.
Reading aloud conditions the child’s brain to associate reading with pleasure, builds vocabulary and provides a reading role model.
It is not the toys in the house that make a difference in children’s lives; it is the words in their heads. The least expensive thing that we can give a child outside of a hug turns out to be the most valuable: words.
Dos & Don’ts of Reading – Aloud
- Begin reading to children as soon as possible.
- With infants and toddlers, it is important to include books that contain repetitions.
- During repeat readings of a predictable book, oftentimes stop at one of the key words or phrases and allow the child to provide the word.
- Set aside a time (preferably post dinner) for a story.
- The art of listening is an acquired one. Reading aloud develops it.
- Start with picture books that have only a few sentences.
- To encourage involvement, invite the child to turn pages.
- Before beginning to read, always say the name of the book, the author and the illustrator (no matter how many times the book has been read)
- The first time you read a book, discuss the illustration on the cover. Ask- ‘What do you think this is going to be about?’
- Keep the interest alive by asking, ‘What do you think will happen next?’
- If the chapters are long, find a suspenseful juncture at which to stop. Children will be counting minutes until the next reading.
- Whenever a child asks a question involving the text, make a point of looking up the answer in the reference book. This expands the knowledge base and nurtures library skills.
- Usually active children frequently find it difficult to just sit and listen. Paper, pencils and crayons allow them to keep their hands busy while listening.
- Occasionally read above the intellectual level of the child and challenge him / her.
- Picture books can be read easily to children of various ages. Novels, however will pose a challenge. Read to each child separately.
- Mood is an important factor in listening. An authoritarian ‘Now stop that and settle down!’ will not help.
- In reading a Picture Book, make sure the children can see the pictures easily.
- Allow time for discussion after reading a story. Thoughts, hopes, fears and discoveries are aroused by a book. Do not turn discussions into quizzes.
- Use plenty of expression and voice modulation when reading. If possible, change the tone of your voice to fit the dialogue.
- Adjust your pace as per the demands of the story. During a suspenseful part, slow down and lower your voice. A lowered voice at the right time moves an audience to the edge of their seats.
- Read slowly enough for the child to create a mental image of what s/he had just heard you read.
- Either before or after reading, tell the children something about the author. They need to be aware that books are written by people, not by machines.
- Readers should interact with books … One way to acknowledge some wonderful piece of writing is by putting a small star on the margin with a pencil.
- Do not forget to develop the habit of carrying along a book in the car / metro, to complete a few chapters in the traffic jam or while waiting in the doctor’s lounge.
- Lead by example. Make sure that children read to you for pleasure too instead of just during the read aloud time.
- Regulate the television viewing time for children. With more than ten hours a week of television time, their scores at school tend to fall.
- Read stories that you don’t enjoy.
- Feel you have to tie the book to class work (as a teacher)
- Confine the broad spectrum of literature to the narrow limits of curriculum.
- Start reading if you do not have enough time to do it.
- Get unnerved by questions during the reading, particularly the very young children.
- Use the book as a threat.
- Try to compete with the television.
- Impose your own interpretations of the story you are reading aloud. Stories need to be enjoyed and then discussed.
‘The best SAT preparation course in the world is to READ to your children in bed when they are very young. Eventually, if that is a wonderful experience for them, they will start to read themselves.’ Tom Parker
Let us join hands in raising readers. Pledge to read with a child for at least twenty minutes every day.
Ashutosh Aggarwal is the Founder and Secretary of Sanskriti The Gurukul, Guwahati and Co-Founder of The Atelier in Guwahati and Bangalore. He is an engineer by training with a degree in B E (Mech) Hons but is a passionate Maths Educator and Quiz Master.
He likes Innovation and Creativity, and constantly strives for Change in Education in India by stretching the limits within the system. A very motivated Leader in Education, the Asia One Magazine conferred on him White Swan award in 2016 for being the Most Influential Leader in Education.