Wean junior off digital gadgets ― to books

British Council Singapore’s Leslie Davis suggests ways to break kids free of e-gadgets and hooked on physical books and newspapers.


How do you entice a child away from a smart gadget to something that seems as old-fashioned and static as a book? Every parent is familiar with this struggle: A 2015 UK Scholastic study found that there has been a 10 per cent decline in children reading [books] for fun. The same study found that the most powerful predictors of reading frequency for children ages 6 to 17 are:

• A child’s belief that reading books for fun is important.
• A child’s reading enjoyment.
• Parents’ own reading frequency.
• Parental involvement in their child’s reading habits.

In other words, it’s up to YOU.

Since physical books are less distracting than e-books and help you process the plot or information better, how do you encourage your child to start reading?

1) Create a family culture of reading

When was the last time you read a book for fun? Children need to learn that reading isn’t just something you do in school. As Dr. Seuss famously wrote, ‘The more you read, the more you know. The more than you learn, the more places you’ll go.” Books are portable magic that transport you to other lands, times, places ― all you need to do is open the cover.

However, reading can be difficult, so children need to see the people closest to them engaged in the act of reading for pleasure. They need to know there is something worth the effort sandwiched between those book covers. Parents, grandparents, older siblings, aunts and uncles all need to be seen reading — and enjoying it!

So how do you show this to your child?

• Make books or other reading materials available in the house.
• Make a habit of having everyone share something they read that day at the dinner table.
• Share your favourite childhood books with your child.
• Create family traditions like weekly visits to the library — a plus, your child will probably enjoy the outing!
• Wrap books up as gifts and have children open one a day to read together, leading up to an important event like Christmas or a birthday.

2) Read aloud to your child

Not only do children love hearing stories, a habit of reading together offers you both an opportunity to bond. Get in a routine of reading to your child at least 20 minutes EVERY DAY.

Make this a time that you both look forward to by creating “cosy time”. Find a quiet, comfortable place with no distractions (yes, you both need to put down that smartphone/tablet) and read. A common time to do this is at bedtime, but “cosy time” can be at other times: After school, when you both need a break, or during Sunday morning coffee.

You can also ask other family members to engage in it. And your child will begin to associate reading with love and connection.

Read on for three more tips to steer your child to read…