Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Encouraging Reading

Where the Sidewalk EndsFirst up, thanks so much to everyone for their reception of the Writer’s Knowledge Database yesterday. I really appreciate it and am so glad you found it helpful! Please continue sending in any suggestions you’ve got for the resource.

My post today goes a little off my usual topics, although I think it’s still very important to writers…it’s about encouraging children to read.

It’s hard for many of us to imagine, because we were probably all avid readers when we were kids. But I have parents emailing me every month asking me for book recommendations or general recommendations for getting their children to read.

I’m lucky that both of my children enjoy reading. But I work hard talking to classrooms and other parents to try to encourage kids to read. There are so many other distractions these days and I want to ensure that there’s a next generation of readers and writers.

Again, this is an area where I’m not an expert, but something that I feel strongly about. While I was a traditional reader as a kid, I’m happy to think more outside the box in order to loop in new readers. If I’m talking to a school or a Scout group, I’m going to think of as many ways to tempt readers as I can. These are my tips and thoughts for encouraging kids to read:

Put books everywhere. I’ve even been known to stick Popular Science on the coffee table in front of the Xbox when my son’s friends are over. They will definitely leaf through it.

Scan book blogs to find YA releases and what’s hot for juvenile literature. Sometimes if their peers are reading the newest, coolest book it might pique their interest. And then maybe they’ll move on to other things.

Shel Silverstein for the kid who won’t read a book straight through.

Try non-fiction for the reader who can’t seem to get into a novel.

Challenged readers? Give them a book above their reading level…maybe a Harry Potter. And download the book onto your Ipod or MP3 player..and let them follow along in the book and gain confidence (and an increased vocabulary.)

Look for ‘Best of 2010 (and other years) lists. You’ll find an amazing list of recommendations for different types of books for children (and adults, too) at this site: Largehearted Boy.

Graphic novels have come a long way. You can now find beautiful graphic novel versions of major classical works, even. And there are series like the Bone series that create whole worlds for kids to explore.

Not getting anywhere with books? See if a download on a Kindle makes reading more interesting.

Pick up some picture books. I bring picture books home from the library every time I go and just leave them on the kitchen table. The kids (who would definitely say they’re too old for picture books) will still read them with a lot of enjoyment, savoring the pictures and words.

Sometimes reading aloud to children every night is the best or only solution to get them interested in a book. I’ve gotten my kids started several times on books that initially didn’t appeal to them by reading the story to them, then handing the book over when I got to an exciting part.

Magazines for children and teens are another way to sneak in some more reading for reluctant readers.

Know what your child most likes to read. And for the most reluctant of readers, know what they will read. Is there just one particular book that they really enjoyed? Look up that book on Amazon and books similar to that one will crop up in their “Customers Who Bought This Item Also Bought” section.

Any other ideas or tips for encouraging our future readers to read?