How to Increase Children’s Reading Habit in A Developing Country

An Education Staff of Athalia School, Tangerang, Indonesia.

If someone has the ability to read does not mean he directly has the interest to read. Reading skill and reading interest are 2 kinds of different matters. Many schools in the developing countries struggle to educate their society to be able to master the reading skills. For example in Indonesia, some parts of the society still have no ability to read because of their poorness in getting education opportunity or because they live in a very remote area.

Many people in developing countries still struggle with the basic needs such as food, clothes and housing so that they do not have idea or budget for books, even for education.

Because of that situation, the culture of reading habit is far from their reach. Even though some of them already have a better living, their thought is still focused on something that is more real, functional, comforting, money- value or something that can improve their prestige like jewelries, hand phones, luxuries housing & cars, expensive toys, etc. Because the culture of reading is not formed yet, the society spend most of their free time for watching TV or chatting.

For some family who has realized the important of books and education, it is still hard for them to increase the reading interest and habit of their children because they have to spend more money for buying books that are getting more expensive. Libraries are rare. Even many schools have no libraries. But there are still some ideas to increase children’s reading habit in the midst of not ideal condition.

First, if you realize that reading habit is important for you and your children, start the reading habit in your own family without blaming the situation around you. Your habit will sooner or later influence your surroundings. Read your children everyday or regularly to form their reading habit and their love of books. It does not matter if you only have ten minutes everyday. It still also gives you good impact. Let your children know that you enjoy the time you share with them for reading. They will love both the time for reading and the time to attach with you.

Second, include expense for books in your budget. It does not matter if you only spend a little of money according to what you can afford. The important thing is you plan and budget it routinely every month. You and your children should often visit bookshop or book fair.

Third, visit any libraries that are available in your neighborhood, schools, universities, clubs, etc. Ask the children to visit the libraries will increase their love for books.

Fourth, you can decrease the expense of books if you can exchange your books with your friends, relatives or neighbors. Sharing books will increase our knowledge in a cheaper way. You can hold a book club where you and the other members (adults and children) can bring their collection of books and share them.

Fifth, you can make your own books. Reading books does not always mean buying books. We can borrow them, share them or make them by ourselves. Children will be enthusiastic if you make a personal book especially made for them. You can use their photographs, handmade pictures, etc to make the book. You can stick the photographs or pictures on some sheets of blank paper, then you write some comments about them. You can arrange the photographs from the child’s birth till he is growing. You also can cut and stick the brochure from the hospital where the baby was born to complete the book. You or your children can draw something on that books, too. You can put the photographs of grandpa, grandma or other relatives to introduce your big family to your children. You can also stick some pictures that reveal your culture or the customs of your society so that the children will learn about their ancestors’ culture and tradition.

The handmade books can be varied in themes. Maybe you want to tell your children about your job and what you are doing while you are away from them. You can take some pictures of your office, your friends, your projects, places you visited, etc and make a book from that pictures. The children will be happy and trust you because they know what you are doing when they miss you. It is important especially for career women who often leave their children.

It’s cheap but excited if you ask your children to make their own books. They can draw or cut pictures from magazines and write their own stories according to their imagination. If your children is still to young to write, you can ask them to tell you the stories of the pictures and you write it for them. After that, read the books for them. They will be very proud of them.

For you yourself, you can collect a lot information from newspaper, magazines, internet, brochures and any other printing materials to make a clipping of information. For example, if you like cooking, you can collect many recipes from many resources and also add your own recipes that you write or type. Bundle those information to make your personal cooking book. If you need information about technology, you can also do the same although you must work harder to collect more information. The important thing is financial problem and lacking of books do not stop your enthusiastic for reading. There are many ways to get and collect information.

Sixth, there is another way that will make children interested in book. Usually children like watching cartoon like “Nemo, Lion King, Mickey Mouse, Winnie the Pooh” or may be there are some traditional legends, puppets or stories that the children love very much. It is very interesting if they watch the movie or show and then read the books. The books can be bought or made by yourself.

Seventh, It is creative if you can dramatize the story you read to your children. For example, if the story is about a king and a queen, you can pretend to be the king and your child is the queen. You can pile up some pillows as your throne and wear a hat as your crown. You and your children can also roar like lions if there are some lions in the story. Children will be very enthusiastic to do that. You can do what the story is about, too. For example, the story is about going to the zoo, you can go to the zoo, too. Or if the story is about fruit, you can go to the market or supermarket to observe them. Bring the information in the story into reality or action.

Eighth, give books as gifts for your children instead of toys. I do not mean that toys are not good for children. I think educational toys are very important for children but you should introduce books as gifts so that the children will respect books as valuable gifts. You can give books for your children as their birthday presents, Christmas presents or when they have good achievement in schools.

Ninth, your reading habit should be the example for your children because deeds speak louder than words. If your children often see you reading, they will know that reading is a good habit that mom and dad often do. How if you yourself do not like reading but you realized that reading is very important for your children ?. It is a fact that many adults do not like reading but there are some tips that you can do to overcome this problem. Find the books that are suitable with your hobbies. If you like cooking, read many recipes or books about cooking. You can also chase your favorite novels. Talk to yourselves that books are important because they can broaden your point of view, your knowledge, skills and even improve your career as well as give you relaxation. Switch off your television, because we usually spend more time for watching television that what we plan. Put the books on the places that are easy to see and access like in your bedroom, in the living room, in the kitchen, in the car, etc. Ask your friends what books they are reading now or books that are good in their opinion. You will be more motivated if you hear that your friends promoted them to you. Make a list what books you have read and what books you plan to read. You will be satisfied if the list is becoming longer. Visit the bookstores, book fairs and libraries. The best thing to do is do it now ! Do not wait until you have enough time or until you think you want to do it later.

Tenth, make sure that books and reading habit are one of your priority because you know the benefit of them. From books you can introduce a lot of knowledge to your children. There is no limit of knowledge if we can learn it by ourselves through reading both from books or from the internet. Do not wait until your children able to read to give them books. Start as soon as they were born. If you often communicate with your babies and read stories for them, their language ability will increase. Although they have not been able to response you through words, they absorb the words you speak to them (Beck, 1997). Do not only give fiction books for young children although they usually like fiction with cute pictures like Winne The Pooh or Mickey mouse. They will also be enthusiastic if you give them non fiction books like books of knowledge such as books about human body, solar system, sea animals, etc. Introduce them to the knowledge since they are very young so that they will like the knowledge and their curiosity will increase, too.

Besides, through books we can teach our children about some concept, value or belief. When it is difficult to tell them not to cheat, you can find a children book with interesting pictures that contains of moral teaching concerning cheating. I have an experience with my little boy when he was afraid of visiting a dentist. Before we visited the dentist, I read him a book about going to the dentist. It is a funny story because the dentist is a tiger and the patient is a little tiger. The little tiger is very brave to see the dentist. This book made my son brave enough to see the dentist because he wanted to be a brave little boy like the little tiger was.

But remember that only good books should you and your children read because some books can be very destructive if they are not suitable with your value or belief. For example, there are many books that contains of pornography and violence that can influence you and your children’s mind. You must be very selective in reading or giving books for your children because our mind is not like a computer. You can delete some data in your computer but you can not erase the information or imagination in your children’s mind. If you think that your children have already been fond of wrong books, do not forbid them directly to stop their habit of reading them. Instead, influence them with your opinion that they should be able to choose which books are good and which books are not so that they will not resist. Let them know from the beginning that they can choose their books but give them some limitation which books are acceptable, which books are not and your reason of that limitation.

There is another benefit of books. You can use it to teach your children foreign languages. Children’s brain is easier to absorb language than adult (Beck, 1997). If you take your little children live abroad, they will master the language when they interact with the children from other countries. If a child is raised by a couple of different nationalities, the child will be able to speak two languages of his parents. I know a child whose father is a Japanese and mother is an Indonesian. This child master both Japanese and Indonesian. Because of children’s ability to absorb new languages fast, you can use foreign language story books to introduce and teach them the languages. Maybe you yourselves only know a little about this language but if you can just read it for them, the vocabularies and structures of the language will be remembered by them.

I am an Indonesian. I read my son English story books when he was 3 years old. I just read the books again and again and then he can repeat the story by himself as if he can read it. He can also repeat the structures in a daily conversation. For example, the book says ” Cat can eat. Cat can drink”. While he was eating, he could say “I can eat, I can drink”. There is another book that says ” Teddy flies higher and higher”. While he was playing, he climbed on a chair and then he jumped to the floor saying ” I can fly higher and higher.” I think the influence of the books is very prominent. The important thing is you have to find a simple story book which has a big picture and a few words or sentences and repeat the story many times as long as your children is not boring. You can choose what foreign language you want to introduce to your children. Just find the simple story books and repeat them in a regular basis. Sooner or later he will remember the vocabularies and recognize the structures.

There are many benefits of books, but you do not always have to buy them. As it is explained above, you can borrow them, share them or make them by yourself. Use your imagination to produce your simple drawings. Or use the pictures from newspapers or magazines to make your own books. Arrange the pictures and the words according to your idea and you will have your personal collection cheaply but creatively made just for your children and yourselves. The value can’t be compared. So do not wait until you have enough money to buy books or wait until you have enough time to read or wait until your children are big enough to read books by themselves. Start it now ! No matter the condition of your financial problem is. If you invest your time and your kids’ time for reading good books, you invest better future for your family.