Book Nook: Author Debra Ann Francisco gives tips on how to get kids to love reading

Author Debra Ann Francisco reading at her book launch in 2018. PHOTO: ST FILE

Author Debra Ann Francisco still reads Harry Potter books with her son, even though he is an advanced reader at 11. They enjoy discussing how the scenes in the books are depicted differently from those in the movies.

"Talking about books and their impact on us is just as important as reading them. My years as a literature teacher taught me this," says Ms Francisco, who encourages parents to continue reading with their kids even as they get older.

The 44-year-old is the author of Vinod And The Deepavali Dishes and four other children's books that teach kids about Singapore's diverse food culture. She is also the News-in-Education specialist of The Straits Times Schools team.

"I wanted to write a series of stories about heritage food for children so that parents could start conversations about their own ethnic cuisines, and hopefully involve their children in cooking these dishes in the kitchen," says Ms Francisco, who has two older sons aged 18 and 16.

For parents with younger children, she suggests creating a daily ritual of reading and making it a special time for the family. "I used to promote another book at the end of each day's story time," she recalls. "This creates anticipation for the next day's read."

If your kid is a reluctant reader, begin a new book by talking about the illustrations first. Ask your little one to guess what the story is about from the pictures. See if that sparks any interest and then say: "Shall we see if our guesses are correct? Let's read this to find out."

And why not record both of you reading together?

"My youngest son used to love Owl Babies by Martin Waddell when he was three, and could recite the story by heart. I recorded us reading together, with him reciting the owl babies' dialogue," says Ms Franciso.

"He got a kick out of listening to his voice over and over again, and it makes for a lovely recorded memory, even years later."


Ms Debra Ann Francisco shares her favourite titles.

1. Green Eggs And Ham, by Dr Seuss


"One of the strongest messages in the story is to never be afraid to try new things, even if these may be strange or different. Once my sons knew the story well, I got them to change rhyming words while we were reading it, with hilarious results."

2. My Colouring Book Is Ruined! by Jill Lim


"It is a story about Claire, who is annoyed that her older sister Kate has scribbled all over her colouring book. She later learns about empathy and understanding when she talks to the rest of the family about Kate's autism.

"Parents reading this book to their children can highlight the importance of patience and inclusivity in their relationships with others."

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