SOMEONE once said : '' The best thing about books is that sometimes they have pictures. As students and children get used to powerful visuals on digital media, this statement rings even more true.

Books simply do not have that kind of magnetic pull that fast-moving, colourful images on screen do. However, books do have the hidden treasure of depth of imagination and understanding that can only be uncovered by a curious student willing to experiment, explore and discover.

Students often get intimidated by the idea of ''finishing'' a book. It would help if parents have a pre-reading discussions about the characters and what they look like, what they might be feeling and what is interesting about the story.

Children need some handholding while navigating a book - this does not imply telling them storyline; often all it requires is asking a host of questions that may enable the child to think to think deeply about the content.

For fictional texts, making predictions about what happen, or changing the ending maybe a fun activity, especially for younger children.

For older ones, linking the story to personal experiences and posing questions such as  'what would you have done in this situation?' provides guidance for critical analysis.

Most non-fiction texts often appear boring unless the child is interested in that particular topic, such as the world of dinosaurs.

However, it is important not only expose a child to wider range of texts and subjects but them to ask questions, draw from personal experience and create a wish-list.

If it is a text about inventions in transport, they might be able to tell you what they wish they could invent, or imagine a new kind of vehicle that they would like to use.

The essential prerequisite for reading is speaking skills, and once we focus on developing children's capacity to construct and voice an opinion, they can weave their way through stories with greater ease.

It is not the willingness to learn, but the curiosity to know what happens in a story that propels a child to read more.

In school, characters were often introduced to us in a blase tone : 'this is Peter' followed by description that leaves little room for imagination. Later, children are asked to write 'character sketches' they look more like cookie-cut answers fulfilling teachers expectations rather than allowing a child to apply cognitive skills by drawing conclusions about the character.

If we were to flip the mode of such instructions, children could be encouraged to explore by looking closely at the facial expressions of characters to decipher emotion, analyse their behavior and use their own vocabulary bank to describe what the character might be thinking or feeling. 

Using a multi-sensory approach is significant in cultivating a sense of empathy and compassion through reading activities.

The honor and serving of the latest thinking and writing on supporting reading for children, continues. The World Students Society thanks author Neda Mulji.


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