When the idea of Maktabatee first emerged, we questioned the viability of selling books, a product that seemed to be going out of business. But our mission wasn't just to promote love of the Arabic language, which could arguably be done in other ways, but to promote reading books in Arabic. With tablets and smartphones distracting our children more and more these days, we wanted to make sure they could still enjoy the magic of reading and storytelling.
From a young age, my husband and I immersed our children in reading. At just a few months old, we read to them, gave them large colorful board books to ogle and touch, and made reading a quintessential part of their day. When I traveled internationally for the first time with my first son to visit extended family in the Middle East, he was just 18 months old. To distract him on the flight, I bought mini versions of his favorite "look and see" books and he was attached to them everywhere we went. My relatives found it unusual, and in typical Arab fashion, made fun of me for "trying to raise a nerd" :)
At the ages of 5 and 3 now, they enjoy very few things more than curling up with a good book. Snuggling up next to a parent or grandparent and hearing them read a book, is something that an iPad can't provide. Hearing your mother imitate the characters of a favorite childhood book, is a memory many hold dear. Enjoying books in different languages is a unique experience that will expand your child's imagination and of course, vocabulary. The Arabic language is known to be descriptive-- it has three to four times the number of words that the English language does. At this point in their lives, we find it hard to keep books away from them (no, we will NOT read 5 books at bedtime!).
So how do we instill this love of reading in our children?
- Start early to create a positive association between babies and books. At just a few months, infants love looking at different images, especially those with high contrast. They will begin associating books with bedtime routines, and other comforting moments.
- Make books accessible and within the reach of your toddler or preschooler. Create a comfy nook where kids can sit and read to themselves (or each other!) by installing low shelves and adding fun pillows or bean bags to the space.
- Take books everywhere-- at restaurants, in the car, or while waiting in line at the DMV, bring along your child's favorite books. Ask them to find specific pictures, letters, or words in the pages. Make a game of counting how many animals, colors, and shapes they can find.
- Set an example by putting your smartphone away, and reading books, magazines, and newspapers in front of your child. Institute a daily "reading time" that will give you time to unwind with a good book, and allow children to explore books by themselves.
- Choose books carefully by staying attune to your child's interests, and making sure to at least skim the books before they do to ensure it is something your child will be engaged in. But don't be afraid to introduce new topics, new styles, and new languages to your child's library!
Admittedly, we sometimes need to hand a child an electronic device so we can finish a meal or get a few minutes of peace and quiet, but we can find ways to consciously incorporate more books and reading time that our children will appreciate for years to come.
What are your tried and true methods for promoting reading and love of books in your household?