Monday, June 18, 2007

On Words: A Reading Life Begins in the Home

On Words

A Reading Life Begins in the Home


JAKARTA Reading is life. The written word separates us from the animals. Its thread ties us to our ancestors’ stories and, in turn, strings forward our lives into the consciousnesses of those yet to come. Want for knowledge, independence, self-confidence all grow from a love of reading.

Understandably, tempted by gaming consoles, cable television, pirated DVD’s and gadgets galore, the children of today’s Jakarta are often reluctant to foment that passion. However, we, as parents, can, by leading by doing, turn even the most text-shy kid into a life-long reader.

Walk the walk

The power of parent modeling is immense. Scatter books, magazines, newspapers about your house. Place a magazine rack in your bathroom. You need to lower the television remote control and raise a fist of words. Make the sacrifice. In all honesty, will knowing the latest about Rosa and Yoyo’s marriage or what Lost is in fact an allegory for really complete your existence? If your children see you reading, they will know it is valued.

Do not talk about reading

Reading can intimidate children. Oftentimes, they view it as a chore that must be accomplished under the stern eye of a schoolmarm. By introducing variety into reading, books can be pulled from the equation. You should try to teach children how to chose and enjoy what they wish to read. Cereal boxes, comics, age-appropriate magazines, and learning about particular hobbies and interests are all great ways for you to take the schooling and intimidation out of your children’s reading.

Read with your children

Scheduling a few evenings each week for your family to read together is a wonderful idea. By sharing this time with your children, you will show them that reading is an important and pleasurable hobby, not a penance. You can take turns reading paragraphs, pages, or chapters aloud to one another and then discuss favorite characters, happenings and anything else of interest that comes up. Not only is this habit a great way for you to foster a love for reading, it will also help you lay the lines of communication that are important to all families.

Create a reading station

Place some large pillows or cushiony chairs in a comfortable well-lighted corner of your home. This can become your family’s dedicated reading spot. If possible, it would be nice if you could border the area with low, eye-level shelves, enabling your kids to display their books and magazines in this area of importance.

Schedule a weekly, fortnightly, or monthly book day

You can elect a different family member to be the leader of each book day. The leader has the responsibility of choosing which bookstore to visit and perhaps even of picking the topic that all the club members need to try to find reading materials about. You, of course, can help your children make these choices by suggesting subjects that relate to what is presently happening in their lives. If your family has an upcoming holiday planned for the hills, a recommendation to learn about volcanoes or tea farms would be in fine standing.

Some local bookstores have scheduled readings or author visits. These could easily be plugged into your family’s book day schedule.

Once back home, in the embrace of your family’s reading station, the leader can read aloud to the group her new purchase. Then you all may discuss the reading along with the rest of the club members’ purchases.

Make reading journals

Using large notebooks, your children can craft reading journals covered with their own decorated designs. They may write about what they like and dislike in their readings and record any news words, phrases or ideas they uncover. You will then be able to respond in writing to your children’s thoughts. It is important to remember that your family reading station is a place where your children are discovering how to enjoy exploring and playing with language, so you should avoid correcting your children’s journal entrees.

Most of All

Have fun. The above ideas are merely suggestions. We all need to keep in mind that life-long habits grow from activities that produce positive returns. You, the parent, know best what rocks your children’s socks and by your being tuned into these desires, your children will soon be as excited about an upcoming book day as they are about the next broadcasting of High School Musical.

Good reading,


(Sidebar, one of one)

How to Choose Children’s Books

· Stay with the known. Look for readings that match your children’s interests, characteristics and life. Kids enjoy reading about people and situations they relate to.

· Explore the unknown. Children love learning about something new.

· Mix it up. Help your children build a wide-ranging library stocked with fiction, non-fiction, the classics, and fantasy.

· Open the book and read a few pages. You know your children best, do you think the material will grab your children’s attention?

· Check the children’s book best-seller lists at, and

· Read book reviews, is loaded with both editorial and reader reviews. You and your children are also able to post your own reviews. Writing online reviews is a great way to stoke your children’s interest in both reading and writing.

· Ask for advice from other parents, bookstore clerks and, if you have access to libraries, librarians.

This article was published in The Jakarta Post’s On Words Column Sunday, 17 June 2007.

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