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Friday, 19 December 2014

A mother is determined to raise readers

Bonding over books ... The writer (centre) wants her daughters Amy Surayyah (left) and Ani Sumayyah to learn the joys of reading.

Bonding over books ... The writer (centre) wants her daughters Amy Surayyah (left) and Ani Sumayyah to learn the joys of reading.

The writer will do all she can to convince her daughters of the joys books bring.

I HAVE always loved books. So, it is only natural for my jaw to drop at the prospect of having two book-refusing daughters. It’s not that they completely shun the printed stuff away.

They tease and irritate me instead with reasons for not picking up books such as, “I’ve just completed my exam, no more books till I’m 20”.

As I struggle to comprehend where I’ve gone wrong, it went from bad to worse. You see, when they were toddlers, and this is when they thought mothers are the centre of their universe, whatever I read to them was music to their ears.

As an ardent reader, I would read to them without fail every night till they could lip sync with me.

I would purposely hesitate a little at the end of sentences and they would eagerly complete them. All this happened before they could read. Of course, they were reciting from their sponge-like memory.

As they entered pre-school and now primary school, that super absorbent sponge has grown into the most irritating yellow, porous, super optimistic thing that lives in a pineapple under the sea.

We have entered the SpongeBob Squarepants obsessed era. My super optimistic self has deflated into a rotting Krabby Patty, thanks to my attention deficit kids who find that the universe does not revolve around their mummy anymore.

Reading, it seems, must not be pushed upon them, but rather gently encouraged so as not to bore or completely put them off. I can’t help but throw my arms in despair over their lackadaisical attitude towards reading.

“Chill out, they are only children. They will pick it up soon,” said Mr. Daddy as he continued to look at his WhatsApp messages, which is about the only stuff he reads besides his lengthy audit reports and the last few pages of the newspapers for daily football highlights and analysis.

I rolled my eyes, grabbed the kids’ book and sunk into the couch in frustration.

Therefore, my family’s behaviour at a mega book fair took me by surprise. I had brought (or honestly, dragged) them there last year.

I won’t go weak at any sales as my will power and self-control are pretty strong, but the combination of books and sale is potent enough to melt all of them.

And just like a five-year-old in a toy store, the sense of excitement made me giddy and amazingly, my kids were just as excited.

At the word go, they ran with a box in hand with their dad and came back a few minutes later fully-loaded.

I wished they had lingered away a little longer so I could, for once, browse through cookbooks and some self-help books for frustrated mothers without being nagged to hurry up, but they were done too fast.

Looking into the box, I wasn’t surprised to pull out more than a dozen SpongeBob Squarepants books. At least they want to read, I thought, and merrily helped them sort out what they should buy.

“Mum, we want ALL of them, even if there’s a duplicate,” declared my children.

Oh, well, as long as they have even the tiniest seed of interest, I guess it won’t do any harm if I nurture it slowly into a full fledged tree of knowledge.

I realised then that I should have given them more liberty to choose what they want to read, with ample supervision, of course, they are much too young.

Words can’t describe the satisfaction I got when I saw them reading to each other as soon as they got home. Mission accomplished, I thought.

But kids tend to be pretty unpredictable, as seen from the now long forgotten books, collecting dust, in our room.

“Read the books, you chose all of them remember?” I said to them.

I tried to be as patient as possible when confronting their tantrums. “Books, books, books, why mum, we need to take a break after exam ...” they pleaded.

Here we go again. My pounding headache needs to be soothed by another round of retail therapy this year ... in a bigger book sale, alone.

But this mummy won’t give up yet on her girls.

One day, my daughters will realise the immense joy derived from reading. One day, they will start reading voluntarily with genuine interest, which will leave them enlightened, amused and even inspired.

Till then, I’ll just continue bugging them with the mantra all mothers use, “You must read your books because I told you so!!”

> We want to hear about your different family experiences, wherever you may live. Parentpost is a new column to share how you are bringing up your children in different environments and cultures, as well as the insights you have gained. Please e-mail stories (800–1,000 words) with photographs in high resolution to star2@ thestar.com.my. Articles will be edited for clarity and to accommodate space constraints.

Tags / Keywords: Lifestyle , Opinion , Parentpost , Parenting , Family , Reading

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