Welcome Christine—a new mom, current high school English teacher, and previous elementary teacher who blogs books at Boisterously Bookish—here today to talk about helping kids find books they love and join us all in this cult of book geekdom.
Shockingly, some people don’t like reading. It’s appalling. Disgusting. Saddening. The reason why this world is falling apart. My theory? Their parents totally screwed up and didn’t foster a love for our beloved hobby when they were impressionable youngsters.
As a high school teacher, ex-elementary teacher, new mom, and friend to non-readers, I know first-hand that you can lead a horse to water, but you can’t force them to drink. You can, though, make the water seem really awesome, special, and personalized, though. And that’s part of what I suggest doing with you reluctant readers. Here are some tips I have, both based on common sense and personal/professional experience that might just help your… horse. Many of them work at any age.
Oh, the 0 to 4 set. You seriously can’t reason with these little people, but you can try to psychologically manipulate them.
- Make your home print-rich: Make books super accessible to your youngster. If you’re afraid of them destroying them buy board books or Indestructibles, but never make books seem like they’re off-limits or something that may result in punishment. If a kid is always yelled at when they go near a book they’re not exactly headed down the road of literary love. Book-related art, coffee-table books, newspapers, etc… are also great ways for your kids to see that the written word is important in your home.
- Set a good example: This is important at every age, but kids emulate what they see. If the people they look at to model are frequently seen with a book in hand, they’ll be more inclined to do the same.
- Make it routine: Most kids thrive on routine, so adding a nighttime book into the mix might lead to a lifelong habit of a few pages read before bedtime. I sometimes read to my baby while he’s in his high chair eating and have snuck in short stories when he’s clingy after a nap.
Now that they can actually read themselves, the game changes a little bit.
- Connections and activities: Does your kid love animals? Get them some animal books and design an imaginary zoo. Cooking? Grab a cookbook and bake some cupcakes (you get some math in there too!). Whatever they love to do they’ll love to learn more about. Combining some sort of hands-on activity will make the experience even more meaningful.
- Choices: Kids love to make their own decisions—it makes them feel like they have control. This is where the library comes in. Or build the opportunity to choose a new book from a bookstore into your household discipline or reward system.
- Book club: Start a book club within your home or with a group of family friends or neighbors. Turn it into an event! Everyone reads the short novel, kids and adults, and then meets one Saturday afternoon for a discussion over a lunch (bonus points if the menu is inspired by the book). By doing this reading is no longer a solitary event with no purpose, but isntead something that becomes social and interactive.
Middle and High School
It often seems that by this age a kid has decided whether or not they like to read. Don’t fear—those that have decided they “hate reading” might still be convinced otherwise.
- Field trips: This can be as expensive as you want to make it, and might be seen as bribery, so sorry if that’s not you’re style. Your kid wants to go to a baseball game? Awesome, read a biography of a baseball player first. She wants to see a movie? Read the novel the film was based on. Family is headed on vacation this summer? Everyone needs to read two books set in the location first.
- Not just novels: I think a lot of times we assume that reading is restricted to novels. This shouldn’t be true, and with the Common Core changes we’re seeing in a lot of states, there’s a huge push for exposure to different source materials. Maybe your teenager wants to read memoirs, travel guides, articles on websites, or cookbooks. That’s okay! Get them hooked on reading something, and then you can slowly introduce other things if you think it’s important.
- Five titles: Whenever a kid comes to me struggling to find a book for their outside reading assignments I ask them to give me a list of five books they’ve read in the past few years that they enjoy (I’m actually going to extend this to five books, movies, or tv shows).This way you have a basis for your recommendations.
- Sex, violence, alcohol and drugs: Kids love reading about scandalous things. Preface the conversation with “I’d tell you to read _______________, but I don’t think you’re quite ready for that yet, there are a few sex scenes in there…”
Do you have any tips for helping people (of any age) learn to love reading?
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