Meg Benson is a mother and avid reader from Ghana. She has a food blog and dabbles in photography and interior decorating. Meg’s daughter Kukie has inherited her mother’s love for reading and we spoke with Meg to find out how she got her daughter to read at an accelerated pace.
How many children do you have? At what age/stage did you start reading to your children? Why did you start then?
I have one daughter Kukie(6) and the funny thing is that she started reading at the age of 5. I had friends whose kids started reading really early so that’s when I realised that it was time for her to start. I couldn’t find the time so I got her an english teacher to tutor her. I paid someone to help me out
At what age did Kukie start learning to read by herself?
I would say almost immediately because within a week of her lessons she started reading and she couldn’t get enough. She was even walking into walls because of how engrossed she was!
Did she pick it up right away? Did she have any challenges?
Kukie was a fast learner. By their second class she was reading by herself. They were doing phonics at school so with the attention and extra push from a private tutor her inner bookworm was unleashed!
Why do you think it's important for children to start reading at an early age?
Reading has a multitude of benefits. For instance right now we are in a pandemic and we can’t go anywhere but books can provide an escape and we can travel through literature! Books can take you all over the world. It opens up a world of possibilities, it is relaxing.
What are some tips and tricks you use to get your child to read?
Get outside help if you do not have time to personally teach your child how to read. We learn how to read, it’s not an innate ability. Someone needs to teach a child how to read and the best person is obviously the parent but if you can not getting outside help is also a great option.
How do you whet Kukie’s reading appetite?
I buy all kinds off books and try to figure out what she’s interested in. I buy tons of book covering a variety of topics (From Christian books to subtle female empowerment literature) so she is definitely spoilt for choice. She reads The Malory Towers and Famous Five, amongst many others.
Do you let her pick what she wants to read?
Yes I realized she was getting disinterested in some of the books so I took her to a bookstore and let her pick what she wanted with a little bit of guidance, of course! I gave her the opportunity to choose and that helped because she can read what interests her as well. I also let her explore other interests. She told me she loves science so I also let her explore other avenues.
How do you get Kukie focused on reading?
I incentivise her! She gets “brownie points” when she reads and she uses them to watch Television. For instance I encourage her to read three chapters so she may be able to watch thirty minutes of cartoons. That works all the time
How much time does Kukie spend on reading?
I would say it’s a minimum of two hours a day. I pace it throughout the day. Whenever she wants to engage in an activity that I don't endorse like, watching TV, I make sure she reads first.
Do you encourage your child to read literature in her home language?
No, we only do English. I have a couple of French books and she also has a French tutor but COVID put that on hold and we recently started picking it up again. We haven't started with any native language but hopefully we can venture into it eventually
Do you have anything else to share with us or have any encouragement for parents and educators who work in literacy?
Make reading fun. Have a plan. I believe in programming children without them knowing that they are being programmed. What I mean by that is that you can turn a child into a reader without them even realising it. What I have done is, I have a reading hub in every washroom, the car and almost every room in the house to encourage her to always think about reading and to develop a passion for reading. It’s important to have a strategy on how you want to teach you to raise your child to be a reader!