In the words of Abraham Lincoln, it is a loss to a man not to have grown up among books. Reading is vital because it makes people understand their surroundings and have perspective on different points. It creates a greater understanding of the world and things that interest them.
An author of two children’s books under a series called Vivi and Oye, Hallo Angala says that reading assists with the improvement of language skills and also provides a platform for teaching children important lessons depending on the topic. She further points out that reading encourages imagination which in turn increases creativity. It also teaches the child patience as well as how to focus on a single task.
Hallo narrates that the series under which her books are written contain the characters Vivi and her younger brother Oye. The stories are organized around climate change, water conservation, renewable energy and energy efficiency with the aim of educating children on issues pertaining to sustainability in a relevant yet innovative way.
Reading requires devoted time and Hallo says that for a child to become a regular reader the parent or guardian has the responsibility of encouraging discipline in the child. “A child will only become a regular reader if it is prioritised by the parents and if they allocate time towards that activity. Schools also play a role in the child’s reading habits as some schools prescribe reading books for children,” she says.
The right book for the right age
It may be half the battle finding the appropriate for the child however it may be pointless trying to force the child to read something beyond their years. Firstly, they probably won’t understand it, and consequently will easily become bored and look for something else to do other than reading. Hallo says that it is important for one to choose a book based on the stage that the child is in. “Children’s books are mostly age based, this allows for a child to confidently read a book and learn. Books are categorised in such a manner to go in alignment with the linguistic level of the child so that the child does not get overwhelmed by a book and get discouraged from reading it,” she advices.
An author of children’s books, Helvi Wheeler affirms that children should not be limited by their age however parents have to monitor and ensure that the books interest them. “My children love reading and I do not really limit them. I have a child who is nine and she’s also allowed to read her twelve year old brother’s books because she’s at that level, she understands and she’s open therefore I say it really depends on the child’s level. Obviously they do not have to read sexual books but if it’s an adult book that has to do with things such as politics, science or computers why would you limit the child? Parents should allow kids to read books and learn about issues around them and the world,” she says.
Make reading interesting
If reading isn’t interesting it becomes boring and every child has their area of interest which is subject to change as the child grows. The child might like sports, fairies, characters from a children’s movie, places of interest or history. It is therefore important for the parent to identify their area of interest and get them books that have suitable content.
Helvi says that parents should not just buy books and hand them to their child but get involved as well. Also, she says that reading must be made a habit by ensuring that children read every night for fifteen or thirty minutes or if it’s done once a week parents must make sure that children read on that specific day,for example you can say, every Saturday we are having fun, we are reading.
“Personally I did not teach my children to read, when they were babies I invested in books and I made it a habit to read every night. We would read fun stories and when they liked dogs I would find books about dogs. To make it more fun we included songs as well. It shouldn’t be about let’s read, it should be about let’s have fun. I was involved because as a parent you have to be involved. Take the kids to the library and places where they can have access to books, go to the book den for them to pick what they love. I also included some technologies such as apps,” says Helvi.
“All languages are important and it is of benefit to a child to be as multi-lingual as possible, especially since we now live in a global village, a large portion of Africa for example speak French and many countries speak Swahili as well, the child should read in whatever language they use as a mode of communication as this will enhance their speaking skills through improvement of their vocabulary in their particular languages,” Hallo advices.
Helvi also asserts to the idea of allowing a child to read in languages apart from English saying that if children are taught how to read in their mother tongue it allows them to learn their culture and instill pride in it. It also allows parents to express themselves better in that language. We unfortunately do not have enough reading materials in our mother tongue but if we really had materials available I would advise parents to teach their children how to read in their mother tongue. That’s how I started but I found it challenging because of insufficient material so I decided to make them read in English. However, I do include their mother tongue whenever possible.
The Namibia Book Fair (NBF) will be taking place from the 11th to 16th September 2017 under the theme “An Indigenous Treasure Hunt”. The book fair will not only showcase and promote books, authors and publishers but also promotes its main aim, which is to encourage and create interest around the culture of reading and creative writing in Namibia.