Source: Cape Times

18 January 2016 at 21:54pm

By: Xolisa Guzula

Xolisa Guzula

At the beginning of every year, many people make resolutions for the new year. They have dreams, ambitions and aims of what they want to achieve for themselves personally, at work and for their families.

Some of us adults plan to get into an exercise programme, a healthy eating programme, a study programme or a money-making programme.

We fit the new plans into our already existing routines, such as going to work five days a week, going to funerals, birthdays and ceremonies on Saturdays and going to church on Sunday. We know that in order to achieve the new goals, we have to make them part of our routine, and they become our new habits over time.

Reading to and with our children can become part of our daily routine, too, when we really put our heads to it. Our children should not be an afterthought, but a priority amongst the other priorities we have.

As our children’s first teachers, we know that they thrive on routines. We know our infants’ feeding routine, their sleeping patterns and their play time. So, in order to get them hooked on books, reading and stories, we need to do a few things such as buying books or loaning books from the library and making them available and accessible for our children, as well as reading to them daily.

We need to create a reading routine so that children know and expect to read at a particular time of the day, just as our forefathers did – telling their children stories around the fire in the evening. A friend told me she comes home straight from work, changes and climbs into bed with her favourite book. I believe that our children need to experience the same. After a day’s work it is important for adults to reconnect and wind down with their children in the evening.

Part of this winding down entails sitting together and eating an evening meal or watching television. So, as we make new reading resolutions for our children, we could either fit that in into the existing programme or make some changes, like switching the television off for a while and enjoy family time sharing stories.

Adults must remember that it is easy for children to latch onto a reading or story programme because they love stories. Sometimes they want us to read them two or three books before going to bed and, very often, they want the same book over and over again. They enjoy weekly visits to the library, monthly visits to a bookshop, going to a local reading club, receiving books as presents and being told stories at a birthday party. It is us adults who break the routine because we let other things take over. Slowly we forget to keep up and we eventually stop, yet we expect them to be good readers.

Parents have to remember that children are like plants that need daily nurturing in order to grow. Plants thrive on fertile soil, when they receive air, water, sunlight and talking to.

Sometimes they bend, and we pull them up with a stick to put them back in shape. Children therefore become our plants and we reap what we sow. There is nothing more rewarding than seeing your children expecting books, sitting on your lap and reading with you as well as seeing them making reading part of their their daily timetable. Then you know that they have made reading part of their daily lives.

Join the national Nal’ibali reading-for-enjoyment campaign in making reading part of children’s daily life. Download the 2016 Story Power Promise, a commitment to regular reading or access children’s stories in a range of SA languages from www.nalibali.org and www.nalibali.mobi, or find us on Facebook and Twitter: nalibaliSA

l Guzula is a bi-literacy teacher and community trainer, researcher, storyteller and author of children’s literature