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March 05, 2011, Saturday

Tips to instill a love of reading

Getting children to take time to sit quietly and read can be a challenge at times. In many countries, a love for books starts at an early age at the local library during story time. My nephews grew up in the United States and when they were young, they eagerly anticipated their weekly trips to the local library. However, since Turkey does not have the same system of lending libraries, I have had to be a little more creative to help my son get into the habit of reading at home.

Experts suggest making sure that books for all ages are readily available in the home to encourage children to read. Some even suggest placing bookshelves in the entryway of a home and using them to display new or seasonal books. In our house, bookshelves are everywhere, in almost every room, including the entryway. However, that is due to the fact that we have very limited storage space and every available area has to be used most efficiently. Our entryway just happens to have spaces that fit some of our bookshelves. For many of us living in small, oddly configured apartments, where we store our books is a matter of how to best use the space in our homes.

As all parents know, children will copy the behavior they see at home. Because of this, experts stress the importance of parents setting a good example by reading at home as often as possible. They suggest parents read as much as possible in the home -- both for work and for enjoyment. By seeing you reading to get news, find information and just for the sheer pleasure of immersing yourself in a good book, your child will learn that reading is an integral part of life.

To interest children in picking up a book to read, some experts recommend displaying books on the bookshelves with interesting covers. Instead of shelving the books the most common way, with only the spine of the book showing, take a book with eye-catching artwork and place it facing out, at eye level for your child. Rotate the books on display often to help pique your child’s interest.

Audio books are another way to interest children in reading. Instead of letting a child watch television for hours on end, professionals recommend having young children listen to audio books instead. Often parents do not have time to drop what they are doing and read to a child, so a good time for audio books is when you are preparing dinner or working around the home. Young readers can read along in the actual book while listening to the recording and expand their language skills. By using books that are slightly above a child’s reading level, they will start to pick up new sentence structures, vocabulary and styles of writing. Many websites have lists of age appropriate books to get you started.

Sharing books with your children, no matter what age they are, is a good way to encourage reading. Try reading a children’s novel together and take time to discuss it. It is important to find books about subjects that your child is currently interested in. Find time to read together every day if possible. Reading at bedtime is a relaxing way to end the day and share time together. Do not be afraid to be creative. For instance, if you are reading a scary story, you might try reading it together by candlelight to create an appropriate atmosphere. Perhaps dress up in costumes or even silly hats that match the theme of the book.

If buying new books for your children is not in your budget, many bookstores specialize in used books. Used bookstores can be great places to find both the classics you loved as a child as well as newer books that will interest your own children. Books in languages other than Turkish can be a bit expensive in Turkey, so one way to save money but keep books in the house is to get together periodically with other parents to exchange reading material. As children outgrow easier books or as their tastes and interests change, holding a book exchange with friends is a great way to get new reading material and pass along used books to other children. Talk with friends and other parents at your child’s school to see if there is interest in forming a small group to hold book exchanges. Perhaps meet once a month at a local café or in a home to swap books.

It takes time to create a love of reading in many children. However, if parents set the example, their children will gradually learn to appreciate books. Reading can open up new worlds for children. All they need is a little encouragement to get into the habit of reading every day.

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