Do your kids struggle to read, or show little interest in reading? While reading books together or aloud are the best ways to help kids become readers, there are many other ways to encourage literacy with just a little outside-the-book thinking.
Read-to-Me Books and Audiobooks
Read-to-Me books are a great tool for struggling readers, as they allow kids to follow along visually with a book that is being read aloud to them. Audiobooks help kids discover books that might otherwise be too difficult for them, increasing both vocabulary and comprehension skills.
Overdrive Media allows you to borrow eBooks and audiobooks for free through your local library. All you need is a library card! Overdrive also offers Libby, a new app that allows for a “faster, more attractive digital browsing experience,” recommended for users accessing their account utilizing just one device, like a tablet or phone.
Epic! connects readers up to age twelve with 25,000 books, videos, quizzes and more. A $7.99 monthly subscription allows for up to four reader profiles, so you can personalize reading experiences by ages and interests. Bonus: if you are an educator, Epic! Is 100 percent free!
One More Story is a limited library of award-winning books, coupled with professional soundtracks and narration. Books from the library shelves can be read in “Automatic Mode” (audiobook) or “I Can Read It Mode” (allowing readers to click for help with unknown words). One More Story offers a variety of plans, beginning at $15.99 for three months.
You may think of Audible for adult reading, but the popular audiobook company also offers a variety of books for young readers. With a $14.95 monthly subscription, users can download one book per month (additional books can be purchased for varying costs) that is yours to keep, even if you cancel your subscription.
Books on TV
Kids don’t usually need encouragement to watch TV, but you might find it easier to agree to a little screen time if it encourages reading!
Numerous books for young readers have been made into recent television series. Check out Netflix to catch episodes of Anna Dewdney’s Llama Llama or Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events. Amazon offers The Stinky and Dirty Show, based on well-liked books by Kate and Jim McMullan like I Stink! and I’m Brave! And Hulu has Stella and Sam, from the book series by Marie-Louise Gay.
Playing games together is a fantastic way to sneak in learning. Kids think they are just playing a fun game, while parents know they are growing their literacy skills.
Beautifully illustrated Create a Story Cards from Eeboo allow kids to tell their own stories in different ways each time the cards are used, with millions of possible combinations. Another great Eeboo find, the Fairytale Spinner Game, encourages kids to collect a variety of elements, from heroes to treasures, needed for their own personal fairy tale.
Create your own adventure with Rory’s Story Cubes! These image-embossed dice can be enjoyed with just one set or can be combined with themed and trendy character sets for even crazier story-telling ideas.
Older kids will enjoy Game Development Group’s Wordplay Board Game, a challenging game that requires players to come up with words that satisfy certain conditions, like a food that begins with a ‘P’ and ends with an ‘A’. How many points will you score?
If your kids love getting mail and unwrapping monthly gifts, a kid lit subscription box might be just the thing to get them excited about books.
For art-loving kids, check out KidArtLit, a monthly subscription box that includes a picture book and related art crafts, including all materials.
Looking for a philanthropic solution? Lillypost donates one book to a child in need for each box purchased, through organizations like Project Night Light and the Children’s Book Bank. The books you’ll receive are individually wrapped, too.
And, if you find yourself too indecisive for quick bookstore visits, Literati sends subscribers five curated books each month, based on your child’s preferences. You keep the books for a week, decide which books you want to own, and send the rest back.
Musical Books, Wordless Books & Graphic Novels
Sometimes instilling kids with a love of reading is simply a matter of getting the right book into the right hands. Less traditional books are a great place to start if you have a reader who doesn’t quite adore reading.
Musical books, like Eric Litwin’s Pete the Cat, Groovy Joe, and The Nuts series include downloadable music to go along with each story. Children’s musician Laurie Berkner has several picture books based on her songs, including We Are the Dinosaurs and Pillowland. Emily Arrow creates songs about her favorite picture books, with three albums and a YouTube Channel. And fans of The Decemberists will find lead singer/songwriter Colin Meloy’s The Wildwood Chronicles, a middle-grade NYT-bestselling fantasy series created by Meloy and his wife, author-illustrator Carson Ellis, right up their alley.
Similarly to Eeboo’s Create a Story Cards, wordless picture books allow readers to come up with their own interpretation of the story. Need a suggestion for some great wordless choices? Try Skunk on a String by Thao Lam, The Girl and the Bicycle by Mark Pett, Bee and Me by Alison Jay and Wolf in the Snow by Matthew Cordell.
Remember the comic books of your childhood? Modern graphic novels are especially appealing to kids, and for good reason. Beautiful illustrations and clever storylines draw readers in and don’t let go. For younger readers and pre-readers, check out Ben Clanton’s Narwhal and Jelly Books. For older readers, try Bolivar by Sean Rubin, The Last Kids on Earth by Max Brallier or Nathan Hale’s Hazardous Tales Series by Nathan Hale.