It often seems as if raising an avid reader is impossible. You need to compete with technology, peers, and busy schedules before you even get around to picking a book. Even those of us who write for a living can be daunted at times – but only at times. If you wanted your kid to eat healthier foods you could insist or limit the choices in the house. If you wanted your child to have less screen time, you could insist or hide the remote. But when it comes to reading, it’s hard to know if forcing your kid is going to achieve your objective of having them enjoy the experience enough to claim it as their own.
I’m convinced that, as with most things, the key is making it fun.
Challenge your kids to find the book that makes them a reader. I was at a conference of writers for kids in NY several years ago. The speaker asked the audience to name the book that made them a reader. Pippi Longstocking flashed into my head at once , and, I could see that several other people were right back to that moment when the book in their hand took on a new importance. The speaker called on people at random to share their book. While the replies varied widely, the grade-range/reading level was constant and about grades 2-4. (Just about the time kids start to have more autonomy about their reading.) At KidWrite!, the incentive for completing this quest is an ice cream party for the group with a certificate naming the kid, the title, and the date.
Give your kids a special space to read. Not all kids are driven, at first, to read by the headlights of the cars behind yours or to cuddle under the covers with a flashlight. I get that. But just about any kid will be drawn to a tent – whether an actual tent or a sheet draped over the kitchen table. There’s something about the small space and the private time that draws them right in. Plus, they can drag along a favorite pillow and use a flaslight if they close the “flap.”
Say “yes” to audiobooks. Pick audiobooks that are true to the story. Have your child read along or just listen. Use headphones or listen in the car or with bare ears. Make it part of discovering the fun of “story.”
Talk to your kids about what made the book the one – or not. Being able to articulate what they liked or disliked, what worked or didn’t work, in a book they’ve read gives them the structure and vocabulary to talk about books. It also helps them to identify what they are looking for in a book – something that helps when it’s time to pick their next one.