Sunday, 6 April 2014

How to get kids hooked on books: 6 tips for reluctant readers

A litte school holiday reading...
Kids today grow up in a world where so much competes for their attention - school, sports, friends, technology - that reading isn’t always at the top of the to-do list. Yet reading is so important; it helps develop imagination, emotional intelligence and language skills; can introduce us to people and places we might not otherwise encounter; and is a soothing and restorative end to a jam-packed day.

But what if your kids don’t want to read? Forcing them to do so rather defeats the point if you are trying to pass on the pleasure of reading. But there are ways of encouraging them to read more – without resorting to bribing or berating them. Here are my top tips for getting reluctant readers hooked on books:

Make it all about them
Allow them to choose their own book. Don’t be disappointed if they don’t fancy your suggestions; they’ll be far more likely to read if the book is about something that interests them. Some kids prefer non-fiction, particularly books full of facts about topics they’re interested in such as animals, science and so on.

Read together
Winter afternoons and evenings are the perfect time for curling up with a great read. School holidays can give you the time to do this together and may mean you have time to read a longer book than you might otherwise. Share a book by taking turns to read a chapter aloud or simply snuggle up together to read your own books.

Look for great kids’ series
Finding the right series can help get children hooked on reading. Classics like Mary Norton’s The Borrowers series or Laura Ingalls Wilder’s The Little House on the Prairie books are excellent choices. For something more contemporary look out for John Flanagan’s Ranger’s Apprentice or Derek Landy's Skulduggery Pleasant series.

Let them laugh
Most kids love reading comic-style books. Dav Pilkey’s Captain Underpants series, for example, has delighted millions of kids who might not otherwise have picked up a book. For me these books are a little like junk food; you wouldn’t them to be the only thing on the menu, but a little from time to time doesn’t do any harm. Hopefully these easy readers will be the first step to something a little more challenging.

Show them you love reading
Be a great role model by having plenty of books at home and letting your kids see you reading for work and pleasure. Chat about what you’re reading and why it interests you and ask them about their books too. Sometimes this will give you ideas for books you might enjoy together. R.J. Palacio’s Wonder  for example is a great book for kids and adults - I loved hearing my kids’ perspectives on the issues it raises. My younger son says Sharon M Draper's Out of My Mind (a story about a highly intelligent 10-year old girl who can't walk or talk) is excellent and I'm looking forward to discussing it with him once I've read it.

Highly recommended by my son: Out of my mind by Sharon M. Draper
Don’t stress
Family life is busy these days and even the most ardent readers can find it hard to make time for books. Don’t worry too much if your kids don’t have time to read every single day, just try and make it part of their routine when you can.

What do your kids like to read? Do you have more tips on encouraging reading? I'd love to hear them…

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