ItÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s no secret that most Malawians would rather watch television, listen to the radio or spend an excruciatingly boring day doing nothing than read a good book. Reading, however, comes with many benefits and as MWERETI KANJO finds out, it pays to instil a reading culture in your children while they are still young.
University of Malawi (Unima) Zain Africa Challenge coach Sunduzwayo Madise was once quoted saying the reason that we, as a country, do poorly in academic competitions is because we lack a reading culture.
He explained that it is difficult to instil a reading culture into a grown up child. We have limited our reading to academic stuff, only to stop when we have gotten our qualifications.
Maybe it is about time that as a country we change and start to bring up young readers, instil in them the reading culture when they are very young.
Phoenix Primary School principal Lesley Mpemba said the love of books is not something that can be forced on our children but rather it comes by example. When parents start to read to their children, read with them; chances are the children too will become readers. She said the beauty about reading is that it is a shared activity allowing parents to bond with their children.
“You have to instill the love and respect for books. Many times we mishandle books. We do not know how to handle them. Read to the child. In that way you motivate them.
“The thing is to make sure that the child is reading something of their level because if it is not and they do not understand what they are reading then they will stop,” said Mpemba.
Further, he said it is of benefit to establish a good foundation by teaching the students English language skills. In that way it will be easy for them to read because they will be able to construct words.
Parents can do their part in reading to children and buying them books. Yes, books are not amongst the cheapest things in Malawi but there are shops like Dapp that sell good second hand books.
If your child develops a passion for reading at an early age, they will stick to it as they grow.
Founder and Head of Nyasa Junior Academy and Loth-Lorien Montessori, Rubina Hajat says the problem is that most parents often misunderstand the concept of reading and feel happy if their child is learning ABC at school.
She says the childÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s foundation actually begins early even before they can walk. Montessori teaches that the first six years of a childÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s life are most important. Children are like sponges- they absorb everything.
“Simple games like building blocks, looking at picture books and just taking a walk in the garden to pick up items of interest and become more absorbent of the things around us are all building the foundation that is required for the reading skills. They help your child concentrate, observe, listen and talk.
Looking at picture books with your children is the beginning of enjoying stories in the written form even though they cannot read and getting them interested is the key. Parents are always busy but try and give your child at least half an hour each day, preferably at bed time, to read a story book to them. Use it to teach morals and values in a fun way,” advises Hajat.
When we read for much more than academic reasons, we have a better understanding of the world around us and some say that communication skills are improved.