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Get Your Kids Hooked on Books

Eleven-year old child loves books, but I'm still hoping for my 6-year-old

I am a reader, and it's something I desperately want to pass on to my kids.  My childhood memories are populated with Laura Ingalls, Trixie Belden, and Judy Blume. Even now I turn to books for instruction and enjoyment every day.

By the time she was in first grade, my daughter was hooked on books, and her interest has not wavered, but I think my son needs a little help.

It's long been proven that kids who see others in their life reading are more likely to want to read on their own. Kyle, 6, sees his dad, his mom and his big sister reading a lot. Apparently the modeling seeped into his brain, because he was reading at age 4, but just because he can read doesn't mean that he wants to. 

One of my goals for the summer was to increase the time he spent reading independently, and by using the techniques below, I've definitely seen a change in his interest in reading.

Remove Temptation

Kyle's biggest obstacle to reading is the competition for his attention: television, video games, and computer games are all activities that he enjoys. When I enforce "no electric" time, he's much more likely to read or ask me to read to him. It seems like a no-brainer, but I admit my guilt about relying on these electronic babysitting devices too often.

Resist the Urge to Judge

All reading counts. Anything that gets him interested in reading is OK in my book.  When I saw that he would actually sit and read the Sunday comics, I bought some Calvin and Hobbes books to entertain him on our long road trip. I've looked for graphic novels and other books with this format that are on his reading and maturity level (Toon Books publishes some good ones). He also enjoys nonfiction books, so even though I am not interested in the Life Cycle of a Chicken, when he brought that book home from school, I read it to him without complaint, and then looked for similar books that he might enjoy.

Recommendations, Get Them

I let him roam the library and pick out books that catch his eye, but I also ask for advice from the librarian and other parents, so that I can introduce those books to him. This is how we ended up with Diary of a Worm by Doreen Cronin, which led to him reading Diary of a Spider and other books by Doreen Cronin. I checked out one of Mary Pope Osborne's Magic Tree House books on audio, thinking he'd appreciate the combination of fun facts and history with adventure, and he thoroughly enjoyed it. Knowing that he likes the story, he's much more likely to try to read one of those books independently. 

Reward

The idea of bribing my kid to read has always left a bad taste in my mouth. It seems as if he would get the idea that reading is a chore to be endured simply for the prize. However, my thinking has changed on this somewhat after seeing how motivated Kyle was by the summer reading program at the library this summer. He knew what the prizes were and wanted to earn them. When I reminded him that he could add a book to his list if he read it himself, the next prize goal flashed in his mind, and he started reading. I'm toying with the idea of continuing this in some way here at home.

I'm convinced that any child will enjoy reading if he or she gets the right books in their hands and is given the right opportunities -- then reading becomes its own reward. 

Using the strategies above seem to be nudging my son in that direction, and I'm hoping by the end of his first grade year, he will be a confirmed bookworm like the other members of his family.

Eric Paradis August 20, 2010 at 02:03 PM
If you are looking for graphic novels, you don't have to go far. Cave Comics, right here in Newtown has a great selection for a wide age range. They also stock a pretty good variety of comics for younger kids. My daughters are frequent shoppers there and if you are trying to get boys to read, this is a great place to go.
George Stockwell August 21, 2010 at 12:39 PM
Great piece. I love seeing my 6 year old grand daughter sitting in a beach chair-just like her mom (my daughter)-and reading a book. One other thing people might consider. No matter how old a child is, they love to be read to. It won't be long before they want to do it for themselves.
Jennifer Donovan August 23, 2010 at 08:47 PM
Eric-- We've never been in there, but we will definitely stop in! Thanks for the recommendation.
Jennifer Donovan August 23, 2010 at 08:48 PM
Absolutely, George. Though my daughter loves to read, and is entering middle school this year, I still read at least one or two books aloud to her, and we also read books together so we can discuss them. I feel another column coming on. . . .
Dr. Karla Scornavacco August 23, 2010 at 09:48 PM
"Resist the Urge to Judge." Yes, yes, yes! Now that kids are back (or almost back) in school will they be reading more or less? With teachers who follow that motto, yes, yes, YES! Sure, we need to keep challenging them. But really, it's about INSPIRING them. Thanks for this post. I learned about it through Twitter...a new interface for me. Figure I might as well catch up with the rest of the world, and use Academia as a launching pad for new possibilities, not a barrier to keep me bottled inside. www.ScholarFit.com
Jennifer Donovan August 23, 2010 at 11:01 PM
Thanks Karla! I know that my eldest daughter's reading drops off when she gets busy with school and extra-curriculars. I was so grateful for the librarian and reading teachers at Reed Intermediate school who built in lots of time for reading while she was at school. I have a feeling it will be harder to juggle in middle school.

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