In a recent post, I answered the question “Why Should I Make My Kids Read?” Now I’m going to give some practical suggestions to help turn kids into readers. Be forewarned, no matter what you do, not every kid will love reading. These suggestions, however, should go far in making literature taste better for the less-inclined.
The most important thing a parent can do to form kids into readers is to turn reading into a habit. Set aside a regular block of time that everyone understands is reading time. In my family, we designate four weeknights on which we seldom have activities. At bedtime on these days, our routine includes 10 to 45 minutes of reading, depending on the child’s age. Once a child becomes an “Independent Reader” (a badge of honor), he is given a bedside lamp, table and timer and allowed to keep the light on just a little past bedtime on those nights, reading.
The second most important thing a parent can do is set an example. Let your kids see you read.
Here are a few more ideas:
♦Set limits on television and video game time. It’s okay to turn them off.
♦Offer your child a range of options. There are all sorts to choose from: magazines, comic books, picture books, novels, graphic novels, blogs, ebooks, ezines, newspapers, community or school bulletins.
♦Find material within your child’s interests. Is he a nature-lover? Subscribe to a hunting and fishing magazine. Like sports? Read biographies of sports heroes or a history of the game. Or try the sports section of the newspaper or an online sports column. Does she love horses? There are a thousand novels to choose from, as well as 4-H materials and how-to-care-for manuals. Or Google literature from different breeders and organizations.
♦Buy some good books and leave them around the house for those lazy or rainy days. Choose engaging books. An easy way to find quality is to look up winners of awards such as the Newbery Medal, the National Book Award, the Caldecot Medal, the Carnegie Medal, the Christopher Award and others. (See my “book lists” category.) Also, check out some book reviews.
♦Download some children’s books and share your ereader. Don’t have one? Download ebooks to your computer and turn it into an ereader.
♦Read aloud together. This works especially well in the car.
♦Choose a book that has been made into a movie and watch it afterwards.
♦Create a fun spot to read in. This could be a special, permanent corner somewhere, but it doesn’t have to be. Build a fort or set up a tent. Buy a colorful beanbag. Throw a blanket in the yard. Rearrange some hay bales in the barn. Turn that nook under the steps into a fun space. Build a treehouse. Find a giant packing box from a refrigerator or stove and turn it into a fortress.
♦Find books that connect with real life. Getting a puppy? Read A Dog Called Kitty, by Bill Wallace. Did Grandma immigrate to America as a child? Read Amy Hest’s When Jessie Came Across the Sea. Going on a boyscout survival outing? Try My Side of the Mountain, by Jean Craighead George. Visiting a historic site? There’s probably historical fiction and surely non-fiction written about it.
When our family planned a trip to the Atlantic coast a few years ago, we first read Misty of Chincoteague, by Marguerite Henry, then we camped a night with the wild horses of Assoteague Island. It was the most memorable night of our trip, and the story has become a family favorite.
♦Encourage your younger readers to share a book with a special pet or stuffed animal.
♦Get involved at the library. Libraries often have reading programs and prizes. Get your child his own library card.
♦Use incentives like a trip to the park, a special overnight at Grandma’s, sundaes or pizza night when goals are met. Adults work hard for bonuses and promotions. Don’t be afraid to reward good readers.
♦Let your child read to you. Listen attentively. Offer praise and encouragement.
If parents help make reading an enjoyable activity, kids will be more inclined to do it without a fuss. Before you know it, they might even pick up a book by themselves.
If you have a great idea, please share with us!