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How can parents help children develop a relationship with books from a young age? This topic of discussion at the Sharjah Children’s Reading Festival (SCRF)’s Cultural Forum allowed for a stimulating exchange of ideas between two prominent children’s book authors.

According to Abby Cooper, who attended the event virtually from her hometown in Minnesota, the first step is to get children excited about reading. “It is absolutely important that they hold a book in their hands and turn its pages, even if not reading it. Children need to form a physical connection with books and a fondness for them before the words in them take young readers on journeys to new places.”

According to award-winning Emirati writer, Nadia Al Najjar, another crucial element is for parents to pick books with vibrant illustrations as well as content that will resonate with their child.

“What is equally important is providing children with the right book to read. If a child likes a certain animal or sport, pick a book that includes these aspects. Believe me, these things help encourage a child to read,” she emphasised to parents attending the talk.

Agreeing that the experience of reading a book was different from listening to it being read by someone else, both authors were of the opinion that parents must befriend technology. “If your child loves to be on the iPad, download them books to read on their device. The medium is not important as long as they are reading digitally or listening to audio books,” Al Najjar added.

The participating authors also opined that another key reason why the habit of reading should be instilled in children from a young age was because stories provide children battling emotional issues to feel less isolated.

“Letting them choose their own books goes a long way in creating life-long readers out of children. It’s very important to give children a choice when it comes to reading. Whether it is the medium they are reading on, or what they are reading, giving them choice gives them ownership of the experience,” noted Cooper.