For most Indian parents, intelligence and academic excellence rank at the top of our list. We want smart children and we are willing to do anything to make sure our children excel academically. We readily open our wallets even when money is tight, research a long list of schools before choosing the right one for our little ones and tirelessly haul our kids from one tuition to the next. We gladly give up a few luxuries and necessities so we can channel all our time and money for our kid’s education.
Why do Indian Parents focus so much on education and academic excellence?
We grew up in a society where the job situation has always been tough. We had to compete for limited resources. Hard work was the only way we could make a living. Our society can be very unforgiving. A high school drop out can get a job in a good company in the West. Whereas in India, even those with years of experience and a degree from a good university will have to still submit high school transcripts for job interviews. Then imagine the state of those without experience and / or degrees. That is the reason why Indian parents focus so much on academic excellence.
We are willing to cram our children’s schedule with activities from morning to night everyday in the hope that the exposure we provide them will help them grow up as well rounded individuals.
But sometimes we forget that we parents don’t spend much time with them one on one. We are so busy that we sometimes are unable to sit and read with our child for a few minutes everyday. How many of us have said, “Not today dear. You have to wake up early tomorrow morning for school” when our child asks for a bed time story. I am definitely guilty of that. Last week I saw my daughter’s fallen face when she sweetly said, “Okay mommy. We can read it tomorrow” while keeping her story book under her pillow.
After that, I was kicking myself. Yes the dishwasher needs to be loaded and I have to get her school bag packed before I retire for that day. Oh yes there is this friend or family member’s email that needs to be read. But will it be the end of the world if I postpone these activities for 10 minutes?
Children whose parents read to them regularly develop a love for the written word at a very young age. Reading is a joyful experience when children read books because they love reading and not because they have to read it to score marks.
Books stimulate their imagination and expands their understanding of the world. Children who began reading at a very young age are able to assimilate and process information better and provide creative solutions to problems. And we as parents have the golden opportunity to instill this love for books in our little ones.
From what I have heard and observed in most Indian families, it is the mother who reads to the child. I am definitely not saying this as a complaint against Indian fathers because they do engage the child in other activities. Recently I overheard my husband telling a story to my daughter. Yes “overheard” because my husband does not allow me to stay in the room as he spins a tall tale.
In his attempt to make it more interesting, he adds so many embellishments to a story that we will fail to recognize the original story. That is why I am banned from the room because while my daughter’s eyes and mouth are wide open in amazement, my facial expression says, “you little fibber”. This daddy practically trolls his daughter everyday and she seems to enjoy it. That is when it struck me. We both have totally different styles when we converse with our daughter. Children need both styles. They need mom’s stories that are logical (and sometimes … Ahem…. a little too preachy 😈 ya ya go ahead and judge me ) and dad’s wild stories that expands their imagination.
Recently I came across this wonderful poem titled “Read to me daddy” written by Russ Walsh. Her teacher sent home this poem.
Read to me, Daddy Of far away places
Where elephants reign And turtles win races.
Read to me, Daddy
And we’ll leave on a flight To Jupiter! Mars!
And home in one night.
Read to me, Daddy
And fill up my head
With fanciful pictures ‘Fore I go to bed.
Read to me, Daddy
Of wishes come true.
Read to me, Daddy
Then I’ll read to you.
– Russ Walsh
Here is a video of my daughter Abigail reading this poem. She was extremely happy that she had an important message to convey (See who is preachy now? Huh? )
Here are some of the advantages of reading to toddlers and preschool-age children
1. A strong bond between the parent and child. It can be your sweet cuddle time.
2. Improves their reading skills and writing skills that will help them excel academically.
3. Improves their vocabulary and speech skills. They will know to choose and use the appropriate word to communicate their feelings. They learn to communicate better when they see how the characters in the story communicate and react to situations.
4. Children who are introduced to reading early will have a fertile imagination. They will grow up to be creative adults.
5. We are paving the way for them to be able to grasp complex concepts when they grow up.
6. While reading, your toddler is also learning to sit still. This quite time will help train them to concentrate and also be disciplined. We know how difficult it is for our “terrible twos” little fellas to sit still. But if they develop a love for their quite reading time and learn to sit still before they turn 2, it will help them settle down easily when they start preschool.
7. Most importantly, for them to have a lasting love for reading, children should view books as a fun activity rather than a forced school chore and this is possible if they develop a love for the written word before they start school,
Books have the power to help our kids in many different ways. Many of us complain that our kids are hooked on to TVs and iPads. But are we providing them with a better alternative that they will love and enjoy? Books and hobbies are wonderful remedies to cure addiction to electronic items.
Tips for reading with children
- Schedule a time and stick to it. Have a reading corner or any clutter free space to read.
- Absolutely no multitasking please. So mommies and daddies, please close that laptop and switch off that TV.
- Allow the child to choose the book even if it has been read many times.
- Remember that younger children will not be able to concentrate for more than a few minutes and this duration will vary from child to child. Please do not compare your child’s attention span with attention span of your friend’s child or neighbor’s child. It is okay if you don’t finish the story in a single siting.
- Talk about the book before you begin. Look at the cover of the book, read the title and look at the picture. If the child is old enough to grasp, ask a few questions related to the content of the book. For this you must have read the book for story time starts. 😉
- It is okay if the child takes a look at pictures in all the pages before you begin to read. In fact I think it is better to give the book to the child for 5 minutes before reading time so she can be prepared for the story. Let the child handle the book, turn the pages, look at the pictures. It will only pique her curiosity.
- Most important tip is – Do not read in a hurry. Children who are too young to read and who are still expanding their vocabulary rely more on pictures than on the written word. My daughter looks at pictures first, sometimes a little too long before she stars reading a page. Initially I felt this was slowing us but later I noticed that she was noticing things that I missed in the picture. Allow them to make the connection between the words and pictures in the page. Those pictures also allow them to retain what they read.
- Read the books loud enough (not shouting or screaming 😀 ) so they can hear you pronounce the words properly. Talk about the page and what happened in the story after each page and also after finishing the book. If the child is around 5 or 6, you can ask them to spot difficult words and note them down and check the dictionary later. Here is a tip, not all kids will be interested in interrupting story time to look up words in the dictionary. :)Read a page and try the guessing game where you both try to guess what happens next. This will get them involved in the plot and also encourage creativity.
- Many children’s books will have repetitive phrases. Encourage your child to read those parts by themselves and it will give them confidence.
- Allow questions while you read.
- The aim is to encourage questions and creativity and not to finish the story book. Use voices for the characters in the book. When my daughter was little, we used to imitate animals in the story. Even now she gives the characters special voices when she reads story books. The girls will get shrill voice and men will have manly voice and the evil guy or the witch will get a gruff voice. (yes stereotypes galore 😉 )
- We also take turns to read. If she is sitting on my right, she reads the right side pages and I read the left side pages. This helps them from getting overwhelmed.Repetition is the key. For children to retain and grasp the story completely, they have to read the same book again and again. As we read the same book again and again, kids will know the exact sentence that will come next. They will memorize it and will be able to tell the story even if they cannot read that page properly. This is okay and they are training their brain to retain what they read.When the child is excited to show off to you that she knows the next sentence from memory, don’t be mean and ask if she really read it. As long as the kid is also understanding the story, this is okay and bound to happen since they read the same story many times.
- Make reading fun and you will do your children a huge favor.
Got anything to add? Type away in the comment section below. 🙂