Tuesday, May 31, 2005

Parent's role in nurturing the child's reading habits

Parental involvement plays an important part in whether the children pick up the reading habit. I say this from personal experience. Both my wife and I are avid readers, and our parents have shaped our love for reading.

My wife said there was a point in time when her mother would take her on bus service 64 to the (now demolished) National Library at Stamford Road every Saturday. My wife also said she would rush to the counter to queue and return the books (those days before anyone dreamed of automated bookdrop). She reminded me how library users had to open the book to the right page to be stamped. If not, one would surely get scolded by the staff.

My wife remembers Pippi Longstocking (of the super red hair and jutty pigtails), Beverly Cleary's Ramona, Anne of Green Gables... (all the hardcover books, she says). And miscellaneous stuff. She would borrow 16 books at one go. By that weekend, she would have finished almost all the books. It would be, in my wife's words, a torturous wait for the week until the next library visit.

For me, I didn't discover libraries until much later, for my parents didn't bring us to libraries. Now that I think back, my parents nurtured my reading habit in a different way, particularly my father.

What my father did was to bring my siblings and I to the town center every other night after dinner. We would inevitably end up in the (now defunct) Oriental Department store.

I remember stopping by the small book corner and just reading and re-reading "Goldilocks and the Three Bears", "Rapunzel", "Jack and the Beanstalk". And there were Asian fairy tales and learnt how Redhill got it's name, about Moorthy the Mouse...

One time, when I was 10, my father bought a book titled "Model Essays and Compositions". He didn't make me read it, nor was he the type to vet my homework. He just left it on the table. I picked it up, read it, and learnt some tips on writing well. For inspiration, I continued to read Goldilocks and Jack I guess.

I only discovered about public libraries when some library staff came to my primary school. They brought a whole bunch of books for us to choose, made us library cards, and that's when I learnt I could borrow books for free (which is why I believe very strongly in outreach activities even today).

My wife discovered libraries much earlier than I did. But while libraries were important in sustaining our reading interests, I'd say it was our parents who laid the foundation.

At the end of my earlier post, I said that if parents were really serious about inculcating the reading habit in their kids, they should lead by example.

I would think leading by example doesn't always mean being voracious readers. As in my case, my parents didn't visit public libraries. But I would think they recognised the value that books played, and they did other things that helped influence me.

The NLB can build libraries, right up to people's doorsteps. But all would be moot if parents don't play their part, in all sense of the word.

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  1. Anonymous1:14 am

    I totally agree with you. It's difficult to instill the habit of reading into our kids if all we do whole day is to rot in front of the tv.

  2. My first book was Silas Marner by George Eliot ... at 8 years old. My dad picked it up at the void deck. :O Ever since then, he has been feeding me a regular supply of old books other people throw out, even to today.

    The latest garang guni addition was a 5cm thick hardcover of Karmasutra. Really... the things people throw these days. ;p

  3. Mel: I've been tracking the no. of books I read, and it's inversely related to the amount of time I spend watching TV & surfing the net (quite a no-brainer, really).

    Roxanne: That's one good example of how parents can create that supportive environment. I begin to see why you read what you read...

  4. I think a big challenge is providing male role models who value reading for boys. We were fortunate to have a visiting author who has created a very successful niche market in writing for boys - Phil Kettle - and we held a "Dads n' Lads" afternoon at the library. It was great to see the Dads getting up and reading aloud from Phil's books. If only we had the resources to do that sort of program more often.

  5. What a great idea! Thanks. Will see if something like that can take off in Singapore.


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