How to raise a reader: Common Sense Media offers librarians and parents 10 tips for getting kids hooked on books
By Regan McMahon
Kids become lifelong readers for all kinds of reasons.
Sometimes there’s one key book that captures a kid’s imagination and opens him or her up to the exciting world of fiction. Other times, a teacher who assigns great books in class sparks a hunger for more big ideas and fine writing. In some cases, parents influence kids’ appreciation of books by sharing their own love of literature and modelling reader behaviour – always having a book to read, taking books on vacation, reading before bedtime, making regular trips to the library and bookstore, etc.
Here are our best tips for nurturing a love of reading that can last a lifetime:
Read aloud: It’s important to keep it up. Kids will enjoy it longer than you think. You may have to read their favourites a hundred times, but just go with it. And try non-fiction for those who are curious about pirates, Vikings, robots, castles, history, sports, biography, animals, whatever. For second through fifth graders, read those rich and meaty books that might be missed otherwise, maybe classics like Treasure Island1 or Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland.2
Many adults think that as soon as kids learn to read on their own, they no longer need to be read to. But kids still love it and benefit from it as they hear the rhythm of the language, learn correct pronunciation, and get to relax and just take it all in. Kids will get the idea that there’s something worthwhile in books and that there’s something special about time spent with a parent or teacher.
Savour the series: It’s common for kids to become book lovers for life after getting hooked on a series. And there are lots of good ones that keep kids hungry for the next instalment. Some reliable prospects: Ivy and Bean,3 Judy Moody4 for beginning readers; Harry Potter,5 A Series of Unfortunate Events,6 and the Percy Jackson7 tales for middle graders; and The Hunger Games,8 Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants,9 and The Raven Cycle10 for older kids.
Grab onto a genre: Kids go through phases of genres they’re passionate about, from girl detectives11 to science fiction12 and fantasy.13 Don’t get hung up on whether it’s considered great literature (although some genre books are). Be happy that children are devouring books one after the other.
Feed the favourite-author addiction: Once kids find a writer they love, they may want to read all of his or her books – a great excuse for a trip to the school or public library or an opportunity for book swapping among friends and classmates.
Here are some good bets for favourites. Younger kids: Dav Pilkey (The Adventures of Captain Underpants),14 Beverly Cleary (Beezus and Ramona).15 Middle grades: Kate DiCamillo (Because of Winn-Dixie),16 Neil Gaiman (The Graveyard Book).17 Tweens and teens: Judy Blume (Are You There God, It’s Me Margaret)18 and Sarah Dessen (Just Listen).19
Count on the classics: Books are called classics because they continue to engage readers generation after generation. There are no guarantees, but you could try introducing kids to books you loved as a kid and see which ones click. Some good ones to try are thGraphic novels are among the hottest trends in children’s publishing, and they can get kids hooked on reading. Kids may start with Squish25 and Babymouse26 and move on to Diary of a Wimpy Kid. But these series can also lead to more sophisticated fare such as El Deafo,27 Boxers and Saints28 and This One Summer.29e Dr Seuss20 and Narnia books, Charlotte’s Web21 and The Secret Garden.22
Find books about the things your kids love: If a kid adores horses, try Black Beauty.23 Booksellers and internet searches will help you find books on any favourite topic.
Funny is fine: Some adults wrestle with the idea of letting their kids read Captain Underpants, Diary of a Wimpy Kid24 and other edgy humour books about kids getting in trouble. Talk to kids about the content, but keep in mind that kids like these books not because they want to imitate the characters’ actions but because they can live vicariously through their bad behaviour. Humour is a great pathway to book loving.
Comics are OK: Graphic novels are among the hottest trends in children’s publishing, and they can get kids hooked on reading. Kids may start with Squish25 and Babymouse26 and move on to Diary of a Wimpy Kid. But these series can also lead to more sophisticated fare such as El Deafo,27 Boxers and Saints28 and This One Summer.29
Engage with e-books: Kids can cuddle up with a Kindle, Nook or iPad. Some recent studies say more than half of US kids are reading digital books at least once a week. The electronic format has proved to be especially engaging for boys and reluctant readers, and you can download or access many books on an e-reader, which make it a great choice for air travel and car rides.
But note that some studies show that book apps and interactive “enhanced” e-books, while fun, can be distracting and inhibit reading comprehension. So to promote reading skills and encourage kids to be frequent readers, you might want to stick with e-books that have the look of a bound paper book. Some even have animation that mimics turning the pages.
Make reading a family value: Actions speak louder than words. Parents and teachers can make library visits once a week or once a month to get new books, make regular outings to the local bookstore, hunt for low-cost books at used bookstores or second-hand shops, and show kids that finding a good book is like a treasure hunt.
Reading can fit into the family lifestyle and school day:
• Set aside time for reading only – turning off the TV, computer and cellphone.
• Encourage focused reading time, either for independent reading or reading aloud.
• Create story time hours for preschoolers. For older kids, a parent-kid book club can be fun.
• Provide time and space for kids to read for pleasure in the car (if they don’t get car sick!), on vacation, after homework is done, on their own before bed. Warning: it could be habit-forming!
1. See: https://www.commonsensemedia.org/book-reviews/treasure-island.
2. See: https://www.commonsensemedia.org/book-reviews/alices-adventures-inwonderland.
3. See: https://www.commonsensemedia.org/book-reviews/ivy-bean-book-1.
4. See: https://www.commonsensemedia.org/book-reviews/judy-moody-saves-theworld.
5. See: https://www.commonsensemedia.org/lists/harry-potter-book-series.
6. See: https://www.commonsensemedia.org/book-reviews/the-bad-beginning-aseries-of-unfortunate-events-book-1.
7. See: https://www.commonsensemedia.org/lists/percy-jackson-book-series.
8. See: https://www.commonsensemedia.org/book-reviews/the-hunger-gamesbook-1.
9. See: https://www.commonsensemedia.org/book-reviews/the-sisterhood-of-thetraveling-pants.
10. See: https://www.commonsensemedia.org/search/Raven%20Cycle.
11. See: https://www.commonsensemedia.org/lists/girl-heroes-and-detectives.
12. See: https://www.commonsensemedia.org/lists/science-fiction-books.
13. See: https://www.commonsensemedia.org/lists/fantasy-books-for-kids.
14. See: https://www.commonsensemedia.org/book-reviews/the-adventures-ofcaptain-underpants-an-epic-novel-captain-underpants-book-1.
15. See: https://www.commonsensemedia.org/book-reviews/beezus-and-ramona.
16. See: https://www.commonsensemedia.org/book-reviews/because-of-winn-dixie.
17. See: https://www.commonsensemedia.org/book-reviews/the-graveyard-book.
18. See: https://www.commonsensemedia.org/book-reviews/are-you-there-god-itsme-margaret.
19. See: https://www.commonsensemedia.org/book-reviews/just-listen.
20. See: https://www.commonsensemedia.org/lists/dr-seuss-books.
21. See: https://www.commonsensemedia.org/book-reviews/charlottes-web.
22. See: https://www.commonsensemedia.org/book-reviews/the-secret-garden.
23. See: https://www.commonsensemedia.org/book-reviews/black-beauty.
24. See: https://www.commonsensemedia.org/lists/diary-of-a-wimpy-kid-bookseries.
25. See: https://www.commonsensemedia.org/book-reviews/squish.
26. See: https://www.commonsensemedia.org/book-reviews/babymouse-series.
27. See: https://www.commonsensemedia.org/book-reviews/el-deafo.
28. See: https://www.commonsensemedia.org/book-reviews/boxers-saints.
29. See: https://www.commonsensemedia.org/book-reviews/this-one-summer.
Category: Summer 2016