“All books are a good start; it really depends on what the child veers towards”
Choosing your child’s first book is as important as choosing his first words. Children books are vital for mounting your child’s early persona. While scanning book shelves for your child, you should follow a certain criteria to help you make the right choice. We talked to Nadia Wassef, Founder of Diwan Bookstores who guided us through this issue.
“Choosing your child’s first book is as important as choosing his first words. Children books are vital for mounting your child’s early persona.”
How should a mother evaluate her children’s book?
I don’t think it is the mother who does the evaluation for the first book, but more likely the child him/herself. First books often excite children either because they make noises, or they are fun to touch, or because of their bright colors. At the age of a first book- and it is never too early to start introducing first books-children rely on their sensory stimulation. So successful first books can be bath books that children play with in the bath or bite on; or books that you squeeze and they make noise (noise makers); or even touch and feel books that allow children to experience different textures.
What’s best to begin with, novels, learning skills books, encyclopedias?
First books for babies were covered in the previous section. Moving now to children in preschool and elementary school, it is best to adopt a “just right” approach whereby children are comforted that they are picking books that are not too hard but are at the same time still a challenge and this is where parents can play a guiding role. The more children get into the habit of picking up a book and reading, the more they are comfortable with it and excel at it. All books are a good start; it really depends on what the child veers towards. Children go through different phases of interest: from dinosaurs to fairies to dragons to books about outer space, fire trucks, spy thrillers, horror, and sci-fi. Let their interest flow with ease. Be a gentle guide but allow them the freedom to explore and express. In some cases children like to start feeling challenged and they may start to drift towards skill tester books, you may gently introduce these things but pushing and bullying will always incur an adverse reaction. Reading needs to be a fun hobby, not a source of pressure.
“It is never too early to start introducing first books-children rely on their sensory stimulation.”
For Egyptian kids, do you think it’s better to let them read from their mother language or it’s not necessary?
Most experts will suggest that one language must remain dominant for children. I agree with this. So the answer to this question lies in the personal circumstances of each child, their home life and school life. Children in language schools will always have the language of that school dominant. The language spoken at home also has an influence. I believe a healthy balance is a key but keeping in mind that one language will always be a dominant one.
“Reading should always be an option, even if it can’t compete with computer games, IPADs, and TV; it still needs to be on the child’s horizon to be given a fighting chance. After all, you are what you read!”
What is the starting age of reading?
This depends on the child’s stage of growth. Different children start at different ages. Parents reading to their children are essential. This needs to become part of the routine at home and this is a way where children start to develop the habit. Reading is a shared activity and pleasure. Children can pick the book they want read to them; even if they can’t read the words, ask them what they think will happen next, discuss with them the ending of the story. Engage them as much as possible. At the beginning most children recognize two and three-letter words, then they move on to phonics and deciphering. Again it depends on the system adopted by the school where they are learning. The important thing is not when they start; but more how their comfort increases and they improve in their reading levels at a steady pace.
How to encourage a kid to start reading?
Children learn through imitation. Most kids who grow up in households where they see their parents reading are more likely to imitate them. Books should be permanent fixtures at home. Regular trips to bookstores help where picking a book and browsing through it are fun activities that families share. Reading should always be an option, even if it can’t compete with computer games, IPADs, and TV; it still needs to be on the child’s horizon to be given a fighting chance. After all, you are what you read!