Viewpoints

Book Nook

Published: Sunday October 5, 2014 MYT 12:00:00 AM
Updated: Tuesday October 7, 2014 MYT 8:09:07 PM

Casting her witchy spell

Make reading time, family time and get all the kids involved -- even the neighbour's! -- Wikimedia Commons

Make reading time, family time and get all the kids involved -- even the neighbour's! -- Wikimedia Commons

Book Nook columnist Abby Wong specialises in getting kids who hate reading to love books

“A novel way to start the day is a noble way,” a friend once said. That nobility is not granted to many, I suppose. Who can leisurely pick up a novel when we all have to get going almost before we’re fully awake every morning?

Although I cannot afford to linger to read in bed, I do wake up many a-time thinking of books. What books to buy for my children to replenish the piles that are dwindling? What book should I read to my students this afternoon? Yes. Unbeknownst to many, I have the fabulous job of reading to students: for a small fee, 35 primary school kids visit me at home to share books with me.

A few years ago, while looking for things to do that would not make me feel like I was re-joining the rat race, I met a mother who was having trouble getting her son to read. She wished her son would read more so he could be top of his class in English, as he already was in Math. I didn’t break into tears ... until she asked if I could teach her son to read. Does anyone (who knows how to) need to be taught to read? Just pick up a book and read. No?

It was later that I realised most children of immigrant parents, although born and raised in Australia, read only to the extent demanded by their teachers. But kids who do not genuinely love reading will have difficulty later. Not only will they find it hard to fully grasp the underlying meaning in texts, they will also struggle to express themselves. All this has been proven time and again.

So I took the boy on board, knowing that he was mouldable, being only seven years old. I started with Mark Carthew’s The Gobbling Tree, and along with my own kids, we read and laughed aloud while I pretended to be scared. Later, we progressed to chapter books. I read to him from boyish books like Megan McDonald’s Stink series and Michael Wagner’s The Undys.

An hour a week, and about three months later, we began our Roald Dahl journey. We discussed the moral behind each story and highlighted words to be learned and used.

As we noted the beautiful descriptions and identified the varying nature of Dahl’s sentences, the boy began to write short reviews to practise writing like Roald Dahl, and then longer narratives to hone his descriptive skills.

I bought him books, though he was not my child. And because I wanted to make books exciting, whenever I presented him with one, I would act foolishly excited. In no time at all, our roles changed. He was too eager to sit and listen to me read to him, he wanted to read to me. Three years later he “graduated”, having finished E.H. Gombrich’s A Little History Of The World, the last book I bought him, and signed in place of Gombrich.

A multitude of kids have come into my life since that little boy, all of whom I have read to. They may arrive hating books but they all leave loving them. There is no magic. I simply read, using different voices, dramatic and comical voices, and a lot of zeal and earnestness. I want them to know how much fun stories are, and they tend to find my enthusiasm highly amusing. Some call me a book witch who loves to cast spells on children and turn them into bookworms. That’s what I am.

In my experience, readers are inevitably writers. Grammar fixes itself when a child reads and words latch onto a child’s mind and their meaning reveal themselves, if not instantly then later, without him having to consult a dictionary. Reading expands imagination, a quality that opens the door to creativity, open-mindedness, adaptability and flexibility. Reading grounds a child, making them more at ease with stillness or nothingness. A child who reads feel less hyper because when he is not reading, his mind takes him to places he read about or that he conjures up on his own with his ever-burgeoning imagination.

I have seen all these qualities absent in a child and abundant when he begins to read widely. Why not you try reading to your child? For younger children, read to them. For older ones you can pretend to like a book and invite him to read it with you. Try Derek Landy’s Skulduggery Pleasant series or any of John Green’s highly popular books. Just 20 a day to start with and, soon, you will see him devouring books without you.

Abby Wong understands the difficulty of finding the right books to lure a child into reading. Find them you will at the many book sites on the Internet. If you’re in Malaysia, take your child to Kinokuniya Bookstores at Suria KLCC. Having worked there, Abby knows that its children section is overflowing with good books, and good staff stand ready to assist.

Tags / Keywords: Column, Book Nook, Abby Wong, reading, children, reading habit

More Articles

Filter by

Make reading time, family time and get all the kids involved -- even the neighbour's! -- Wikimedia Commons

Casting her witchy spell

5 October 2014

Book Nook columnist Abby Wong specialises in getting kids who hate reading to love books.

Books our columnist shared with children during her last round of giveaways.

Making more young readers

21 September 2014

Our columnist shares her passion for putting books into as many young hands as she can connect with.

Hopelessly devoted to Haruki Murakami

7 September 2014

Book Nook takes a peek into the mind of a member of a cult.

A world gone mad

17 August 2014

Book Nook asks: How do we tell our kids that their surrounding is not as safe as they think it is?

Books brought great pleasure to the writer's late father-in-law.

A fond farewell for a bookworm father-in-law

20 July 2014

Abby Wong dedicates this story to her late father-in-law, who was also a fan of her column.

There are signs all over the school encouraging reading. Note the humble entrance to the library on the left. - Abby Wong

Pages inspire, not screens

6 July 2014

The Book Nook columnist says what you see on a screen can limit the imagination, But words on a page unleash the mind.

Foul weather pals

15 June 2014

Books can create a vortex of happiness, claims our columnist.

Spell weaver: Ismael Beah, whose evocative words pulled our columnist out of a party, often gives talks on the reality of his fictional work, Radiance Of Tomorrow. The novel offers hope that Sierra Leone will recover from 11 years of war in which children were forced to become soldiers. - Human Rights Watch Student Task Force

Book Nook: Pull of the book

1 June 2014

Author Ismail Beah's tale of hope after war in Sierra Leone in the book 'Radiance of Tomorrow' has Abby Wong abandoning a party.

He reads, he excels

18 May 2014

Our columnist shares her experiences with students in schools Down Under.

Obama in the house

4 May 2014

Well, not really. But it would have made a great tagline if the world’s most powerful man had visited our columnist’s favourite bookstore in Malaysia.

advertisement

Recent Posts

advertisement