Once your child has developed literacy skills in the minority language, it is a blessing as s/he can expose him/herself to the minority language (ml) at their own demand, without depending on you to provide that exposure. However, overtime the independent reading novelty wears off. It loses its glitter. And you have to rack your brains to find books that will appeal to your child and motivate him/her to read independently. This is the issue I have with my eldest, who -as I draft this post- has almost a dozen novels started but not finished in her 3 languages.
In a Facebook Group I moderate, a bilingual mum shared a brilliant idea which inspired me. She has designed a beautiful table with all the Mr. Men books, and asked her son to colour in each Mr. Man he has read. That gave me the idea to do the same thing with my eldest. And to add spice to the whole thing, I challenged her: my eldest versus me and her little sister (I read to her little sister, as the latter does not read yet). A family reading competition.
I could not believe the results after one day at home. We have a 47 Mr. Men book collection and by the end of the day she had read 14 of them!! During her sister’s nap in the afternoon, I laid on the sofa whilst she devoured some of these books. It was delightful to observe her. Lying on her tummy, one foot swinging dreamily in the air, she was absorbed in the fantasy world of Roger Hargreaves. I occasionally heard her giggle, or she would share some funny bits of her read with me.
By the middle of the week, my eldest started losing confidence as she saw her little sister and myself taking the lead in the competition. She even came up to me at one point saying that she did not like reading. The truth was in fact that she did not like losing, and she lacked the confidence that she could do it. Eventually, with a little heart-to-heart chat, she moved back to the competition of her own accord. The mystery of the reward probably also helped, for she tried to quiz me a couple of times but did not get a clear answer from me. 😉 Reflecting on it, this whole competition idea was a positive experience as it taught her perseverance. And in this world that is growing increasingly competitive, perseverance is a valuable quality.
She eventually won! It was a close shave by 1 book, but she won fair and square. She read all 47 books in 9 days! I certainly did not expect this fast. My eldest was delighted to discover her reward, which is a book she had told me she wanted a couple of weeks back: “The 39-Storey Treehouse” by Andy Griffiths. She devoured it in a matter of days! The little one whined that she had lost and I imagined it would be so, yet I also wanted her to learn from this experience as she is young and is yet to familiarise herself with losing. I got round it saying it was not her who lost but mummy as I was the one reading… and somehow it made her smile and forget all about it! Not sure it was the perfect way out, but seeing me smiling and losing fairly is still a positive image I guess.
When your child has grown a little weary of reading, a family reading competition is a lovely way to rekindle your child’s love for reading. Like any reader, we sometimes lose ourselves in the ocean of books available to us. And a little guided reading can sometimes make us discover or re-discover certain books. 😉
- If your kids are a little competitive but fair players, then it could be a nice thing that they compete against one another, so long as it will not create any tensions between them.
- You can put a little treat as a reward, if you feel it can be needed. However, be careful with your choice of reward, as the true reward of this challenge is the joy of reading. I would recommend the treat to be a book you know your child would be strongly interested in.
- Make sure your challenge includes something to keep track of the reading. Preferably something playful such as the colouring of icons, or stickers.
- Book challenges are good to rekindle the reading flame, but must not be used throughout the year as they will quickly wear out the spice they bring to your child’s life as a reader.
If you have an only child, the challenge can be against you, against you or/and your partner, or simply a personal challenge for your child. How long will it take him or her to read that many books?
- If your child likes reading challenges, you can also have him/her do the annual Reading Aloud Revival 31-day Read-Aloud Challenge that takes place in January. It involves reading at least 10 minutes every day, and ticking off days from the chart provided from the RAR website. Though this challenge takes place in January, you can do this anytime of the year, really! 😉