‘Actions speaking louder than words’ goes the Maltese saying. Somehow, it always comes to mind whenever I happen to be in a public library, which as a parent is quite a regular thing.
We’re often trawling the book isles of the children’s section in the public library – especially during the Christmas holidays – and I think it’s a joy to see how most times the corridors here are full of life, buzzing with children leafing through books.
However, over time I started observing a common trait. Parents accompanying the children to the library are always encouraging them to read and to choose this book or that; but then, once the children have made their choice, the trip to the library ends there. The parents do not walk down to the adults’ section of the library to make their selection of books. As a result, the adult’s section is often empty and echoey.
There could be various reasons for this. Maybe they would need to rush to the next errand. Or maybe grown-ups feel that the library doesn’t stock their kind of books, or maybe they take longer to read because of a hectic lifestyle.
But I worry that this is a case of the adults failing to lead by example. They want their children to read but fail to do so themselves. Anyone who has kids will attest to just how much they imitate behaviour of those around them. Surely the same should apply to reading? How can we expect our children to believe that reading is an enjoyable experience if they never see us do it?
Disclaimer: Of course there is no guarantee that if you read, your children will do the same. The reality is that they are surrounded by too much entertainment and picking a book can be quite the challenge. Even so, I’d still like to think that reading-by-example has an impact, especially as they grow older and the books you’re reading can become topics to talk about.