I have been a bookworm since childhood, and when I started my own family, I really wanted my kids to develop the same love of reading as I did. But I knew there’s no guarantee it would happen (kids really do have their own minds!), and I wasn’t always sure how to achieve this goal.
One unexpected source of inspiration came from my librarianship studies, which I undertook when my children were still quite young. What I was learning about literacy, and library trends, really opened my mind about why and how we read.
So here are some of the most important things that Library School taught me about how to encourage and support children to become happy, confident readers:
- There are different types of literacies.
Picture books, chapter books, graphic novels, non-fiction… they all challenge our comprehension in different ways. Literacy is not just about being able to read big words and long books. Don’t despair if your child prefers pictures to words - they are still gaining useful interpretation skills. Try reading a wordless picture book (such as Shaun Tan’s The Arrival), and you’ll see what I mean!
- Every person their book.
In the library world, this is about offering a variety of materials to suit the diverse needs of library users. I also like to think of it as an encouragement to the parents of reluctant readers - that one day, the Right Book will come along, grab their child’s interest and kick-start that lifelong love of reading.
- Make reading fun.
It’s all about fostering a lifelong love of reading - which supports all types of learning, helps to develop intellectual curiosity, as well as entertain and offer comfort throughout life. Mix it up by trying different genres / formats, make up games or stories about your favourite characters, and don’t stress if your child’s favourite book is too easy or “trashy” for your liking.
- Embrace social media.
Besides talking to your friendly librarians, you can find many reading-related resources on social media. Facebook, Goodreads, blogs and websites (including YPRL’s own website) offer everything from book suggestions and literacy activities, to moral support from like-minded parents, to opportunities to interact with your favourite authors.
- Find out what they really mean.
During librarian training, we learn an interviewing technique called the Reference Interview. This mainly involves asking more questions (and listening carefully) to help us tease out and truly understand what our customers want. This technique is helpful in everyday life too! When your child says they don’t like a particular book, what does that really mean? Is the subject matter the problem? Or is it the length, the genre, the font size or even the cover?