With the rapid-fire spread of the coronavirus, the whole world has been advised to stay home. Our daily lives have been disrupted in ways unimaginable in our lifetime. More than 1 billion of our children are out of school. Most of us are being told to work from home. Hospitals are full and public spaces are empty.
Despite all the bad news, there has been a silver lining for our relationships and family lives – we are spending more time than ever at home with our loved ones. We are bonding. We are using this time to reset and reflect. We are getting creative with ways to keep our children entertained and to keep our sanity intact!
What have you been doing to keep your family occupied?
Recently, makchic got together with the Garden International School (GIS) to kick-start an initiative to encourage more reading at home.
Why is reading important for our kids?
We all know that reading has plenty of benefits, but did you know that “…Reading enjoyment is more important for children’s educational success than their family’s socio-economic status.” (2002, OECD). Research has also proven that children who read for pleasure perform much better in all subject areas compared to their peers who don’t.
Boost your child’s vocabulary
Did you also know that there isn’t a limit to the words a child can learn at a certain age? An increase in their vocabulary will help children in every aspect of life, from expressing their emotions to achieving their potential in all areas.
High social and emotional benefits
Another piece of research by The Reading Agency found that “reading for pleasure can increase empathy, improve our relationships with others, reduce the symptoms of depression and improve wellbeing throughout life.” Besides being fun, it also offers valuable respite from your child’s busy day.
Despite all that, we found that we’re still not reading. So why not?
During our sharing session on Instagram, our readers shared their frustrations on how challenging it is to build reading habits with their families. Factors such as time, distractions from social media and devices, large amounts of school work, pricey books and the inability to find the right genre of books deters families from reading more at home.
To get into the habit of reading in a fun way, makchic and GIS ran a month-long campaign on Instagram that involves three weekly reading challenges. If you did not get to participate earlier, there’s no better time to embark on this challenge than now!
Week 1: Get started with some daily habits
Start slow and ease into the habit of reading together every day of the week. Depending on the children’s age, parents can read to their kids or with them, or also talk about books they’ve read.
Week 2: Explore the sensory elements of reading
Reading isn’t just about reading. Take a break from the text and think about the words or the ideas a book has to offer. Or engage in an activity based on a book. For example, one mum read a book on butterflies while caring for a caterpillar with her child. Another mum made a pizza with her son while reading a recipe.
Week 3: Discover alternative ways of reading
Remember literature isn’t confined to traditional paper books and black and white text. Listening to audiobooks and podcasts, and reading comics or magazines offer alternative ways of familiarising ourselves with new thoughts and ideas. We encourage parents to explore alternative ways of reading together as a family such as acting out a story with a game of story charades or creating your own book nook at home.
Getting creative and making reading fun is easier than you think. It offers a great way to connect and relax – especially at a time when we’re spending more time in each other’s company than we’re used to.
We asked our readers, along with the reading experts at GIS for the ultimate tips for reading more at home.
10 tips for reading more at home:
1. Lead by example
With children, it’s often the case of monkey see, monkey do. If we begin to pick up reading ourselves, our children will soon follow suit. It is okay if they start by pretending to read. Once they begin to immerse themselves, they will see reading as an enjoyable hobby.
2. Let them choose
Children, like us, have their own preference. One way to get your child to enjoy reading is by letting them choose the type of books they’d like to read. Depending on their age and interest, choose from picture books, graphic novels, non-fiction books or even magazines. If your younger child prefers brochures, let them be. Just make sure it’s not a toy catalogue, or you might only regret it!
3. Get involved
Ever see your child’s eyes light up when you ask about their hobby? Get yourself involved with the books they read by asking questions about the characters and storyline. Pick a chapter and act out a scene together. You’d be surprised yourself as to how excited you can get by your children’s book. You could also engage the entire family in challenges such as a Library Scavenger Hunt.
4. Associate Movies with Books
Movie releases have a lot to do with influencing children to pick up books they’re based on. Data from a learning software shows that this is indeed true. The next time a new movie is about to be released, try garnering your child’s interest by getting them to read the book first.
5. Set time to read
Depending on your routine, pick a time where you and your child can both enjoy reading. It could be early in the morning on weekends, or right before bedtime on weekdays. Be careful though if your child begins to associate sleep with books and refuses to go to bed (or read) altogether! Make sure it is a time when they are calm and ready to read.
6. Make books accessible
Surely books belong on bookshelves, but if you make it easily available around the house, your child will pick them up soon enough and have a go at reading. Try leaving books in a basket and place them within your children’s reach. Remember to curate the basket with new books now and then. Your child will be looking forward to what Mum and Dad has in store for them each time they look into the basket!
7. Try a different medium
For hesitant readers, why not introduce them to audiobooks or podcasts? Younger children especially, just like being read to. Allow them to listen to their favourite stars reading on @savewithstories or download an audiobook from Audible (free for kids during the Covid-19 lockdown). Let’s face it, Jennifer Gardner is much better at telling stories than we are!
8. Visit libraries online
Unfortunately, all libraries have been asked to close during the Movement Control Order (MCO). Fret not, as most have put their vast collection of books online, including our National Library.
9. Join book reading events
Prior to the MCO, @thestorybooklives holds storytelling events in various locations and major shopping malls. They’ve proven to be a great hit with sold out slots every month. Makchic also always includes book reading events in the monthly list of Things to do. In the meantime, you could find such sessions online here.
10. Exchange gadgets for books
We understand that screen time may increase during this period of staying-at-home. However, try to aim to exchange devices for books at least once a week. Nothing beats having a book in your hand!
With all of us homebound, this is the perfect time to pick up reading as a hobby for the entire family. For more tried and tested tips on how to develop healthy reading habits at home by makchic’s followers, be sure to check our dedicated Instagram Highlights reel.
If you need more ideas on things to do during this Movement Control Order, head on to Smarter Stronger Together. It is a public Facebook group made by parents, for parents, providing some light-hearted relief during these unprecedented times. Join in discussions, share tips, ask questions, but most important of all feel supported that we are all in this together!
This post is sponsored by Garden International School.