The short answer to what you should read to your children is simply; a book. You and your children will go on a journey of discovery together. There are no rights or wrongs. Don’t worry about reading the same stories or poems over and over. Old favourites are comforting for children. Familiar poems or stories become like old friends. My daughter Isabella, now 13, insisted on reading the same nursery rhyme book for years. It’s now dog-eared and the pages are falling out, but I’ll never throw it out. A lifetime of happy memories is contained in those torn, finger-stained pages. Its value is beyond measure.
Buying new books can be expensive and few of us can afford to buy new books every week. The place to go to is your local library. Help your children apply for their own library cards. Children love the magic of having a card of their own and to have hundreds of books to choose from and most importantly, to help stamp out their books at the librarian’s desk.
Try to let them choose their own books; you can always take out a few extra ones that you prefer for story time. Make them feel in charge of their reading. I learnt this when I tried to push Isabella into reading all the classics I was never exposed to. She still berates me for forcing Anne of Green Gables onto her when she was eight. She stubbornly continued reading her My Pony books. By now, the Narnia, Harry Potter and the Twilight series’ are under her belt. Don’t worry if your little ones only want to read fairy or dinosaur books; at least they’re showing an interest and the books will encourage their curiosity in the subject. Some children can’t sit too long, so it’s fine if they prefer paging through picture encyclopaedias which show space stations, solar systems or underwater wonders. These vivid images might capture their attention like no story can.
Set an example to your child
It’s important for your children to see you reading books, magazines and newspapers. Make sure boys see their dads reading as often as possible, so they don’t get the idea that reading is only for girls. Keep some books in your child’s room that they can reach for at any time. My children’s school librarian once told me that I should never feel guilty if the house is a bit messy, because I prefer to read. She said it’s more important to show your children you love books than it is to have a super clean house. I take her advice to heart every time I snatch a break on the veranda with one of my old favourites and a lovely cup of coffee. The best reward of all is to see one of my children lying on the couch, their legs swung over the backrest, lost in an adventure of words.
By Santa Buchanan
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