THE issue of nurturing a vibrant reading culture is one that I have tackled so many times and sometimes, I feel like I am actually plagiarising my own work. However, I am not about to stop writing about this very crucial topic that I think deserves to be repeatedly raised until more people get on board.
Two recent incidents are to blame for my return to this topic once again. I recently shared a cup of coffee with a very good American friend whom I had not seen in a long time. The most interesting thing about this friendship is that on different occasions when she is back in New York and one of her friends so happens to be travelling to Rwanda, she sends me a book or two.
This particular time she personally handed yet another set of interesting books to me. I am one of those people whose reading culture caught on rather late in life. I have learnt that it is never too late to adopt the cool habit of reading.
Recently, on a separate occasion, I bumped into an old friend in Kampala just as she left a supermarket in town. When I inquired from my friend (who is now a mother of two) what she was doing in town at a supermarket in particular, she said she had been searching for books for her children.
I then asked her whether the kids were old enough to read books. She responded that even though her children were too young to read, she buys the books for the sole purpose of reading bedtime stories to them. I was very impressed, because this revelation had never occurred to me in the first place—most probably because I am not yet a parent.
As we parted ways, I kept thinking about what she had said and found myself smiling to myself. I was very happy with what she was doing for her children that I made a mental note to do the same once I got some of my own.
Her simple action clearly opens her children to the literary world at an early point in life. Reading to young children is one of the best methods that parents can employ to nurture the much necessary reading culture that school going children need while in school and pretty much throughout life.
Reading to young children allows them to appreciate language comprehension. The fact that someone they trust and love reads to them regularly is a win. Through imitation children will pick up the habit and never look back. Children also get to learn the pronunciation of certain words at an early stage.
Have you ever wondered how to deal with children who perpetually ask questions about anything and everything? Read to them. During the reading process, children learn a lot by simply asking their parents about the stories they hear. Alternatively, after reading, a parent can choose to ask questions about the story in order to foster the memorisation of characters in the book.
Storybooks for children are often full of interesting fairytales and this opens up their minds to worlds they have not yet seen and thus, stretches their imagination and thinking. In other words, the simple act of getting a book and reading it out to your little ones can go so far in preparing them for the literary and academic world later on in life.
Bookshops and supermarkets in Kigali are full of simple, easy-to-read children books that parents should occasionally pick up. Sparing about half an hour daily to read to your children will do wonders for them. I suggest that you all try it out. Reading is a crucial habit that is best instilled at a tender age. The earlier the better.