“My child does not like to read” is a frequent complain I hear from parents these days. It would seem that suddenly, reading has become a taboo with most kids

A parent complains that their child does not like to read, the child spends all his time watching television and I ask;

“How big is his TV set?”

So what is the relationship between the TV set and kids reading?

Everything I would say.

You see children are inspired by what they see. They form their habits and develop character based on what they see the adults around them doing. In other words, your child is not going to behave like Obama because you like Obama and you want him to become like Obama. If you want your child to behave like Obama, you would have to decide from when the child is young to behave like Obama. Then he will copy your behaviour and voila! You will have an Obama in the house. Simple.

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When parents are readers, children almost always become readers. When parents spend all their spare time in front of the TV set or watching movies or playing with their phones, guess what, the child in that home will grow up doing the same. It is not magic and it is not witchcraft either, it is behavioural science. You cannot wish it away, you should not bind it or loose it; the child is not demon-possessed, unless of course if we accept that you are the demon possessing the child.

A few months ago I was counselling a couple who had a four-year old child. The woman was upset that the child had become addicted to the phone and Tablet in the house and was always playing games, the child would refuse to be pacified until you gave him the phone to play with. She blamed it on the husband’s addiction to phone games and aid he was encouraging the child by giving him the wrong types of games to play with. Then I asked her what she was doing about it. She told me that she was downloading games which were not violent in nature and trying to get the child to play with those but that it was not working.

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This lady is not alone in this predicament. I hear of these challenges all the time. The unfortunate thing is that parents seem to be genuinely puzzled as to what to do.

The first thing I will say is that you cannot solve a problem with the exact same tools that created it. If you do not want your child playing with phones all the time, you limit the amount of time you spend playing with your own phone. If you want your child to become a reader, let him see you reading from an early stage. Show by your actions, not your words alone, that reading, and books is important. Spend money on books, not just school texts. Buy your child books that will keep him informed and entertained. If the child’s primary source of entertainment comes from an electronic box, he is not likely to value books and reading.

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Introduce children early to the beauty of the written word. I recall that I used to read to my unborn kids and people thought I was crazy. When my daughter was twelve years old, she was asked what she wanted for her birthday, and she asked for the complete works of Shakespeare! She is a science student but she found the joy of reading for pleasure long ago and nothing can take it from her.

So if you want your child to be a reader, don’t buy him a bigger Television set for his bedroom, get him a beautiful bookshelf and fill it with books.

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