Raising readers in the age of Peppa Pig and Paw Patrol

When Ema (our BAMBI magazine editor) first shared Reading as the theme for the March issue, I had mixed emotions. I loved the topic because reading is an activity my daughter and I love to engage in regularly. But there is so much material out there on the internet, I was afraid I would sound clinical and repetitive. So, I decided to use very personal instances in this feature instead.

I must confess I wasn’t a voracious reader as a child. I liked books. I didn’t love them. Period. But that changed thirteen years ago when my eldest sister gifted me a novel titled Reading Lolita in Tehran. It was a well-written, #1New York Times Bestseller that explored resilience displayed by eight strong women in Iran in the face of tyranny, with books being their only physical ammunition. While that wonderful book introduced me to a whole new foreign world it also evoked emotions and empathy I didn’t know I had in me. So yes, I’m here to say read…read…and read some more to your kids, and introduce them to experiences they might never physically and emotionally experience first-hand.

Now, the important question that needs to be answered is how do we parents compete with the world of animation that our children are so insanely obsessed about? Okay. So one parent to another let me give you two words of advice. Don’t compete! Chances of you winning are rather slim. Let’s face it Peppa and George do give us that breather when we need it, right? So then let’s not complain about those two little piggies. Let’s not avoid them, but include them instead. And guess who introduced me to this bright idea, my two and half year old toddler. She is obsessed with Peppa but is equally passionate about books. The only activity other than passive television watching that she can stay still for thirty minutes in a row is reading. So we invite her soft toys to a little book club or a tea party and we read along with them. She loves it, and I will do anything in my parental power to ensure it doesn’t diminish. Below are some pointers I believe have worked for us.

The Reading Process: Reading can be divided into a 3-part exercise for toddlers. While each of them contributes to expanding their vocabulary and strengthening their reading capability, they also have some additional benefits.
  1. Activity Reading – In this form of reading parents usually read aloud to their little ones. Activity reading tends to be the tricky one, and hence it’s important to make it an interactive session. So, ask questions, be animated, sing and even role play. Most importantly listen to your child in all of this. They may interrupt you after every sixth word, but that’s the best part. They want to share what they understand, and you’ll be surprised by the correlation they make with the story or words in the book they are reading and some random other experience.
  2. Intimate Reading – My daughter and I snuggle read before she goes to bed. It’s just a beautiful time we spend together; it’s our thing. Intimate reading promotes a feeling of comfort and connectedness.
  3.  Leisure Reading – Let your child flip through pages all by himself. This quiet time helps them absorb all that they learned in the activity reading process. It also helps a child be still and increases concentration.

 Play No Favorites: We don’t promote or discourage reading of any particular category of books. If she is in the mood for a Peppa read that’s what she gets. Her little library consists of general knowledge, fairy tales, fantasy, moral values, TV-related character books and educational books. It’s  her choice. She can take her pick, and I noticed she picks a new one each time. This way I don’t  enforce my preferred choice of books, and it becomes a fun activity to engage in without a meltdown.

   Reading is Not Gender Specific: It’s best to give the kids a variety. Why not have a mixed collection of princess stories and Thomas adventures. Fairies and princesses aren’t just for little girls. No child was hurt by exposure to a little fantasy.

Go Global: Let them spread their wings and learn about folk tales and cultures from other countries, too. These books can be purchased at throw-away prices from various expat sale board pages on facebook, Of course, these are second-hand books, but that’s the great part about expat life when you’re done reading them you put them up for resale. This way you do not collect too much stuff over the years making it impossible to move back with just a few boxes. However, if you are not very comfortable with used books, then a book exchange club with your little one’s friends may be the answer. So this way each month or fortnight your child has access to a new book, and you don’t have to keep spending on new ones.

While the above reading routine worked for us, you may want to tweak it around to make it work for your little one. If you aren’t successful the first time, don’t give up, just try again another day. So go on and arouse those curious little minds and introduce them to a heaven called books.

This article first featured in the BAMBI Thailand magazine, March 2017 issue.


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