On Cultivating a Love of Reading

05/10/2019Virgie

My ten- year old daughter is a voracious reader. At one point this summer, she finished 18 young adult fiction books in three weeks, reading 30 minutes three times a day: after breakfast before going to the beach, mid-afternoon before device time, and before bed after spending time playing with friends at our village plaza. She does these all on her own without prodding.

She reads a lot so I wasn’t surprised when she started writing her own stories. I found one of her many stories in early 2018 when she was just eight years old and decided to show my appreciation of it as well as to encourage her further by contracting an illustrator to work on it. We ended self- publishing her illustrated children’s book on Amazon where it is available for purchase. (You may purchase it from Amazon’s US, UK, Canada, Australia, Japan, Italy, Spain, France, and Germany sites. Please do. In the Philippines, a few copies are available here. To date, we’ve distributed about 400 hundred copies to friends and family and school libraries and of course, it would be lovely if we can spread more love around the world through this book. It’s entitled, “How Mandy and Jack got their Mother Back,” and it’s beautifully illustrated by Gigi Lapid. It’s funny and entertaining but dark and heartwarming at the same time. We received overwhelmingly positive feedback for this very spontaneous project but don’t just take my word for it. Go and get your own copy and do tell us what you make of it. We appreciate feedback as we would like to come up with more books.)

A question I get asked often is this: how did you get your child to like reading? And my answer is simple: Read to them and with them as much as you can and they will eventually catch on. Then I ask them back a question: Do you like reading yourself? Because children copy what they see. If they see you reading, they want to read too. If they see you flipping through pages of a book, they want to flip through pages too. If they see you happily reading, they want to know what exactly in what you’re doing gives you this feeling of joy. Your children are marvelous reflections of yourself. If you want your child to like reading, you have to like reading yourself.

My 5- month old son has already taken an interest in reading. He started grabbing our books and making a beeline for it whenever there is one nearby. I am now a proud owner, for better or for worse, of a number of books with pages crumbled, well-licked, and well-eaten. As soon as I saw this persistent interest in books, I knew it was time to get him his own. Ones he can lick, try to eat, and crumple to his little growing heart’s content. He is now enjoying his cloth books and board books. I got him My Little Pony board books because even if he is a boy, boys are allowed to like MLP too. I have a friend who has a son as old as my daughter who likes MLP too, and proudly referred to himself as a brony, and it was a joy to watch this boy and my daughter animatedly talk about ponies and sing MLP songs together when we met them over for dinner during our visit to the Philippine city of Dumaguete City in 2016. Also, the MLP books are something both my children can enjoy together. I imagine my daughter acting out the stories from the books using her numerous MLP figures, castles, and accessories.

I love reading and it has fostered a love of reading in my daughter too. But these days, it is now my daughter who inspires me with her pile of new and second-hand unread books and the speed by which she clears them. Now I scramble to replenish her book pile, browsing sites for lists of age-appropriate and recommended books for her reading level. I would like to read as much as she does, and looking at her, I know that I must consciously dedicate time to do so. She likes to ask me for definitions even though I encourage her to use the dictionary. “But your definitions are simpler, better and more understandable than the ones in the dictionary. I don’t know why dictionaries use more complicated words than the word they are defining,” she would say. “You’re my walking dictionary,” she says sometimes. I could feel a hint of pride in her voice for having a mother with a wide vocabulary that she could depend on. I must say I probably emit a glow of pride on my face as well. I knew a boy back in high school whose IQ allowed him to memorize a page of the dictionary a day and I wished I could be like him. My IQ doesn’t allow me to do many things but I have been told one’s IQ is actually not as important as say, EQ. But then again that number isn’t enough to let me do many things either but we will take that up some other time.

Building a vocabulary does not actually involve memorizing the dictionary. What it does involve is reading many, not just books but everything with text, and reading often. I have to admit that neither my vocabulary nor grammar is phenomenal. I still make a lot of mistakes and I often have to look up the definition of words in dictionaries and come up with a different word for the same meaning with the use of a thesaurus, and I’m not as ravenous as my daughter. Though to be fair when we are younger, we have more time for ourselves and for reading. When I was a child, I took a book with me everywhere. I liked holding a book while sitting in the back of the family car, watching the scenery pass by or sleeping with the wind on my face. I liked that I always had a book as an alternative if I was not too keen on doing other things. I used to read and reread Reader’s Digest issues at home. I borrowed three books every day from the high school library that the librarian had to make a policy of no borrowing during a school day and limiting to a maximum of 5 books on Friday. I got myself public library cards because I’ve read all I was allowed to at my own school library. The library was a new thing for me when I started high school because my grade school had no library. I then resorted to borrowing books from the extensive collections of my own friends and classmates. I was a notorious reader. And when you read a lot, you get better at writing. I got so good at writing that my high school classmates to this day think that I was part of the school paper. I never was for the sole reason that I never made it to the days of try-outs.

I’m far from perfect so I read and reread books on punctuation, clarity, and style. I dislike editing. I will never aspire to being a proofreader or editor. I read for pleasure and that insatiable desire to know more about a wide variety of sometimes useless info. They’re always good for casual conversations. People perceive me as clever. I don’t think so and improving people’s perception of me is not my goal. I’m just a person who likes to read and think.

The more I read, the more I think, and that is why I read more and I read on. It’s a vicious habit I caught on very early. It’s not ideal for the pockets or wallet, nor contributory in the quest of Konmari-ing my home and my life, and even more for my ever-growing love for minimalism, but books are books and they spark a lot of joy in me. My favorite places in the world include bookstores, libraries, and cafes. I try, as much as I can, to buy second-hand books for me and my children, as well as pass on, gift, or donate the books I can’t keep so I can, hopefully, pass around my love for books, and nurture more bookworms. Books are a waste of money, said no bookworm or lover of knowledge for that matter, said ever. So go on: Treat yourself to a book or a magazine or a blog. Genres don’t matter as long as you read. We read to nurture our minds and hearts, not to please nor impress other people. We don’t judge a book by its cover and neither do we judge a reader by their choice of book.

 

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