One of my favorite childhood memories was going to our local public library. I loved the happy feeling of balancing a way too high stack of books, bringing them home, and getting lost in a story. I wept reading Where the Red Fern Grows. I was terrified during I know What You Did Last Summer. And I relished the relationship drama of the Wakefield twins in the Sweet Valley High series. Hey, it wasn’t always great literature but it got me reading.
Now as a parent, some of the most thrilling moments for me are watching my boys grow as readers. I will never forget when my youngest looked to a book, squinted his eyes, and said, “B…O…O…M. That spells BOOM!” The look of pure joy and pride on his face was priceless. I’ve heard so many parents describe the feeling of watching their kids learn how to read and fall in love with reading as “magical.” And I could not agree more! As a parent, I love doing what I can to help my kids become a lifelong readers.
According to a Scholastic survey, 75% of parents with kids ages 6-17 wish that their child would read more books for fun. Studies show that this is in decline especially for boys. Technology certainly makes this trickier these days. But, the good news is that there is a lot that we can do as parents to raise bookworms! Here are 5 ways to up your kids’ reading game…
1. Pay attention to what sparks pleasure for your child. Notice what kind of reading your child seems to enjoy or not. Is she reading books that are too advanced and contain too many unfamiliar words? Does she love to have you read to her but resists reading on her own? Does she like stories that tickle her funny bone or topics that line up with specific interests or hobbies? Do more of whatever she enjoys the most. Be a model for your child and read for fun too. These things will help make reading a “get to” not a “have to.”
I talk to a lot of parents who bemoan the fact that their child wants to read graphic novels or doesn’t want to read Watership Down even though it’s a classic. Though I think there can be a time to challenge our budding readers beyond what they naturally gravitate towards, on the whole, I really let my child take the lead and allow him to tell me what is most interesting to him. And if he’s not into it, I might offer to read it to him (and have it be something we do together) or I let it go. Sadly, my parental fantasy of having him love the Chronicles of Narnia has had to die. My oldest son doesn’t love it. But he has found many, many other books and stories that have absolutely captivated him and that is more worth it to me. Forget the list of “must read” classics for now or what you think he “should” be reading.
2. Try an audiobook format. This is especially great for kids that love to hear books being read aloud. (Upside for you as a parent is all you have to do is hit play!) So many audiobooks have awesome actors that really bring the story to life. This is perfect for road trips or long times in the car too. And if you don’t already, check out podcasts. Our favorite is Stories podcast which seems to capture both my Kindergartener and 4th graders attention. Story Pirates has a silly and fun podcast as well.
3. Don’t underestimate the power of a great series. Try to find a book series that captures your child’s interest. Once they are hooked, they will be motivated to make it through the whole series – 4, 5, 6 or more books later! While the Diary of a Wimpy Kid series wouldn’t have been my personal pick for what I wanted my son to read, I will be forever grateful to it because it’s the series that turned on my then second grader from reluctant to voracious reader. Once he got interested in it, the transformation was almost magical and my husband and I just looked at each other with shock and delight when he first grabbed a book on his own to read. Nowadays, we have a hard time stopping him from reading at the dinner table or at bedtime because he loves it so much. But it started with that series. (Thanks, Jeff Kinney! I owe you one!)
4. Create a challenge. For a kid who loves some healthy competition, make it a challenge. Every summer, we do a kids vs. parents reading challenge and we keep a big poster board scorecard on how many pages the boys have read vs. us as parents. They love trying to one-up us. Or take the take the Reading Without Walls Challenge from Gene Luen Yang, the National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature which is another great way to engage your young reader and get them going.
5. Take them to the library and get them their own library card. Last but not least, not only is it great to take your child to the library and let them go crazy with whatever they want to check out, it is also really fun for them to get a library card of their very own. Our local library gives kids their own account and reduces the overdue fee for them. My son was so proud to get a library card that bears his own name. Your kids might need a little help from you to get going. However, reading for fun is addicting and the more that our children do it, the more that they’ll continue to grow to love it.
How about you? What other ways do you encourage the love of reading in your kids?