I come from a family of bookworms.
From the day we could make sense of words and sentences in books, my siblings and I, we would read everywhere. Yes, everywhere – from the bed (very bad for the eyes I know) to the dining table to the sofa, and one even reads in the loo!
Every new Harry Potter book release, you would see the book inserted with several bookmarks, and the situation of one of us trying to pry the book from the other with “eh… my turn already lehhh…”, and tantrums flying.
This love of books, I think we owe it to my eldest sister. As younger siblings, we emulated her. As to why she loved books, we didn’t quite know how it started, but boy, did she read a lot and very fast!
My parents don’t read, but we have an uncle who was a teacher, and I think it was he who gifted my sister books by the sets (like a complete set of ladybird books, a complete set of Hans Christian Andersen books in big prints). And we had another uncle who used to own a business selling Encyclopedias (thick and heavy physical books before the time of computers, Google and Wikipedia). So that set a nice tone to kick-start a lifetime love for books.
I carried this love into adulthood, from history to philosophy (Ok, I tried and these really gave me a headache), to biographies, to fiction books (thrillers and chick lit), I read leisurely. Every holiday trip would see me pack a few books for the flight. I read “Marley and Me” and “P.S. I Love You” first before the movies were even released, and I cried reading them. Words brought me into a whole new different worlds, set my imagination alive (I am reminded of Enid Blyton’s “The Magic Faraway Tree”), taught me experiences and live values through people and the characters in the books.
I wanted my Little Foot to fall in love with books too, and open the windows into all these other worlds and perspectives out there. In this digital age, introducing books are a lot more challenging than during my childhood days. Toys sing, books sing too, there’s YouTube and there’s TV. Boring old books are just not as attractive comparatively.
Despite all these, I think we are making good headway, and these are some of the things I have done to inculcate the love for books and reading. I’m not sure if it will be a lifelong love for her, but at least, I think I’m trying and making good progress.
1) Fill the house with books
I have been buying many many books for Little Foot. I Make the house a place where books can be found anywhere and everywhere, pulling books randomly to read a page or two to her, since she was newborn.
I recall how I frantically waved the Black/White/Red Picture book in her face when she was a few weeks old (because in my post-natal madness, I had this crazy thought that maybe she can’t see).
I recall all the board books that she would grab over from me and take a few chomp on. I recall her chewing off one corner of a flashcard.
I recall the first time I was over the moon because she sit there and listened attentively when I read “Sneezy Wheezy Mr Shark” to her. That was the first book she allowed me to read finish and laughed happily along each time Mr Shark sneezed (the book has a hand puppet attached to it).
There are three places I get most of the books for Little Foot from:
- My Greatest Child located at City Square Mall, and a new outlet recently opened NEX Serangoon. They also regularly hold roadshows at Safra clubs. Follow them on Facebook for the updates on roadshows.
- Book Depository is the best for the busy parent, and carries all kinds of books for adults and children. Browse the site, pay by Paypal and get the books delivered to your door, I find this the most fuss-free, and the prices are reasonable. It is also the best if there is a particular book you wish to buy and can’t find in a brick and mortar shop.
- Popular Bookstore, the homegrown haven of assessment books. Everyone knows this one, since this is the go-to for our schoolbooks since the 80s. Baby books are not organised well, but sometimes you could find some treasures if you dig around. I like that they carry a wide range of Chinese books, and there are so many outlets in the heartlands.
2) Make reading a regular affair and read with your child
Don’t just cart out the books from the storeroom when you think “it’s reading time” after weeks or months have passed. In order to make reading regular and a normal activity, it again points back to my first point, make books readily available around the house. You and baby can take turns to choose the books, and vary the books.
I am still trying to make it some sort of daily routine, but as a forgetful and very random/spontaneous person, this is not second nature to me. So I am still very much the “Oh, here’s a book, do you wanna read?” kind of random parent.
3) Create a reading space
I read from this a Mindchamps Article
about creating a comfortable reading space for the kids. Agree, agree, and agree. I used to lie on my bed and read using a bedside lamp. That was the reading space I created for myself.
For Little Foot, I hope to instill better reading habits. A couch or a beanbag in a cosy corner with good reading lights. That will be on our to-do list when we spruce up our living space next.
For now, we usually read with her sitting on my lap with my arms around her on the playmat or on the couch. She likes that she’s spending time being plastered to me. In essence, I let her feel that it is a safe and enjoyable haven.
4) Don’t force it
I observed that there are some things that Little Foot likes to do more on certain days. “mood for books” day is not everyday.
Babies and kids, just like adults have moods too.There are days when our little ones are not in the mood to read. They could be in the mood for running around that day, or in the mood to sing and dance to baby music, rather than sit down with a stack of books. Read their cues.
I celebrate each time I catch Little Foot in her “mood for books” day. On days which she’s not interested and I find myself reading to the furniture in the room halfway, I try not to beat myself up about it, or worse, get exasperated. We can try again tomorrow. After all, I’m the “tik kee” (steel-teethed) child who likes to purposely sing the opposite tune and refuse to do things that I am forced to do, so I expect my Little Foot to be like that too.
5) Visit bookshops and libraries together
Don’t just go to the shops and grab the books on your own. Make it an outing with the little one. I sort of let Little Foot choose the books. For instance, at the stores, she would pull at books and I would ask her “You like this one? Mummy buy?” or I would offer her two or three options and ask her to choose. I do the same at the toy stores, so she would associate that these for her, not for Mummy.
I have been meaning to visit the library with her, just haven’t got round to it, but I do believe, that a visit to the libraries would be beneficial, especially now that she is older. My only concern was that she used to chew on books and I am not quite sure the books, meant for everyone, are safe from her jaws (and also if they are safe for her to chew, having gone through many hands).
After note: It is okay to be a late bloomer
I know, I am one.
I recall how my mum wanted to strangle me (figure of speech) while I struggled to read “The Ugly Duckling” at five years old. I resorted to parroting the first pages word-for-word from what she narrated, and of course, got caught in the process when I got stuck on the pages she had yet to read out to me. It was stressful for me when the alphabets didn’t string up to words, and words didn’t string up to sentences at that age. It was stressful that there was expectations set for me that I couldn’t meet. I was an expert at mimicking and parroting, but I just couldn’t read, and I would write my alphabets in mirror image sometimes. It was an uphill task of learning for me in my early years (back then, no one would ask if you were dyslexic… maybe I was? Who knows…)
It was only at eight years old that I started reading. I had pulled a Ladybird book off the massive shelves in my house one random day, wondering if I could ever be able to read like my sister. That moment, the words strung up, and the stories flowed off the pages, I never looked back. I finished all the ladybird books in the next few days, moved to the Enid Blyton books, then Roald Dahl, then to the thicker books that were on the shelves.
So never put the child down if he/she doesn’t show any interest in reading. Sometimes, it just isn’t the season for books yet. The idea is to create easy access to books, and set a good example.
These days, Little Foot randomly flips a book called “Super Baby Food” before bedtime as it is on the bedside table, as I’ve been randomly flipping through the book to read on what are suitable food for her age and to get ideas on what to feed her next.
P.P.S. I will be reviewing some interesting books for kids in the coming months. Stay tuned!
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