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Emma Walton Hamilton on encouraging the joy of reading

Author Emma Walton Hamilton knows that one of the challenges for us as parents is to be a little bit subtle about our approach and find “stealth mode techniques” to keep the joy of reading alive.

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To me that the single most important element in raising bookworms, in raising a bookworm or several bookworms, is … is keeping the joy alive in reading. This is the whole focus of the book. It’s the whole premise of the book and … and if we ask ourselves only one question as parents with … in relationship to this idea, I think it should be “Am I serving the joy with this activity or am I serving something else? Am i killing the joy?” And … and it’s … it’s an interesting dilemma because you know children, when they’re babies and their toddlers, we tend to read to them much more. I hope. In, you know, an ideal situation when we’re babies and toddlers we are read to. We are snuggling and cuddling and being loved with our family members. Maybe we have a snack or we’re nursing or we have a bottle, and reading is equated with all things wonderful and warm and fuzzy. Reading equals love. And then we go to school and we begin to learn to read for ourselves and sometimes it’s a struggle. Often it’s … it’s a hard thing to do, to learn how to read. And … and there’s a certain amount of pressure and expectation from teachers and perhaps from parents, as well. And maybe the material isn’t as scintillating as, you know, the favorite story at home that’s being read to us by our beloved family members. And little by little we begin to associate reading with … with pressure and with responsibility and with chore and with duty and with frustration or with boredom. And around that same time that this is happening what we tend to do as parents is back off of reading to our kids so much thinking “I need to promote, you know, independent reading skills and I need to let the child go and do their own reading rather than reading to them” and, of course, nothing could be further from the truth. This is the time when we need to read more to keep the joy alive because if we back off of reading and all they’re doing is experiencing the frustrations of learning to read and the pressures of learning to read, then reading is no longer associated with joy. It’s now as with struggle and chore. And so the books premise is let’s bring back the joy. Let’s look for ways and I called them “stealth mode activities” because I think, you know, kids have a … have a wonderful way of knowing when we have an ulterior motive and just because they think it’s an ulterior motive pushing back against it. So I think one of the challenges for us as parents is to be a little bit subtle about our approach and crafty and find stealth mode techniques to keep the joy alive. So, for example, with the youngest readers it’s as simple as making sure that the reading environment is inviting. Making sure that the lighting is … is good to read by. Making sure that it’s cozy, that there are too many distractions of sound or visual distractions, you know. Having the TV on in the other room can be very distracting to a child who’s reading or being read to. The basic environmental support. Creating a reading nook, a place to go and and read together. and establishing reading rituals and those kinds of things for younger children are very important. Reading everywhere and anywhere, whenever possible. I’m a great believer in reading at the dinner table, reading in the bath, reading in the car, reading when you’re waiting in line, you know.