Cultivating a life-long love for reading and learning in her two children has always been of great importance to former Channel News Asia news anchor Suzanne Jung. She shares her personal experience of how she started her kids on their reading journey and tips she picked up along the way.
Mummyfique: Why did you start reading to your kids?
I have a list of favourite books from my childhood and I always wanted to share them with my children. I do wish we had started earlier, but it was only when my son turned 3 that I became more intentional with our reading.
Our reading time is called ‘cuddle time’ at home and we love huddling together to read.
My children love this special time and will ask for it. These “cuddle times” allow me to revisit my childhood, share my favourite stories with my children and have a special bonding time with them. We also love discovering new books together and have found so many we love!
Were there any challenges you faced in making your children interested in reading and how did you manage to overcome them?
Though I love books, baby books that have just single words or sentences per page bore me, and I wasn’t sure how to best enjoy them or if my children would be interested in them. Hence I didn’t really strive to introduce them to books during my first two years of motherhood. However when I realised that my then three-year-old son was more interested in toys than books, I decided to become more intentional.
What really captured my son’s interest were music audio books, and this paved the way for me to introduce books as a fun and inviting thing to him. The melodies were fun and catchy, and were a hit with him. We played it at home, in the car, during bath time, basically everywhere, and we would sing along to the tunes together. It was the same experience with my daughter, just that I exposed her to audio books much earlier on, hence she definitely is a book lover today.
Are there are other strategies you use at home to nurture your children’s love for reading?
The environment at home is very important, so when the kids were younger, we had book baskets scattered throughout the house – in the bedrooms, the dining room and even the bathrooms!
We also converted one corner of the bedroom into a book wall by installing rain gutter shelves so that we can display books forward facing. It’s just more fun and inviting when you are able to see the covers of the books instead of the spine, and when kids can easily see what the books are about, they are more enticed to pick them up and read them.
Whenever my son would go for playdates, the other mums and I would arrange for story –telling sessions. I would also volunteer to do storytelling at my son’s kindergarten whenever I could. Storytelling definitely stirs a kid’s interest in reading as it is a fun and exciting way of introducing kids to books. I personally love observing the looks on children’s faces when they are captivated by a story.
It is important for children to see adults excited by books too, so I’m very intentional in loaning books to friends and letting our children see it. It is always nice to know when your friends tell you they enjoyed the same book you did, and I want to encourage this spirit of peer sharing and peer recommendations amongst my children and their friends, so that they will always believe that reading is cool.
I am always in search of good books but my favourites are still the oldies and I am hoping my children will embrace them too in time to come. My hope is to see my children grow to love books and seek books on their own. So I try my best to create that environment but there is no pressure if they don’t respond to my different ways. They have to find what works for them best. I’ll just keep trying, guiding and encouraging them to love books the way that their mother does.
Suzanne Jung is a mother of two and is passionate about reading. A firm believer in reading aloud, she delights in imparting a love and wonder for books in children and hopes to encourage parents to be reading role models. She will be speaking at the annual Asian Festival of Children’s Content (AFCC) that celebrates and promotes the creation and appreciation of children’s books and content, with a focus on Asian themes. To find out more about this year’s edition of AFCC, including a parents forum that shares advice on nurturing early learning, visit afcc.com.sg.