Even for adults it is difficult to choose a book. Now, imagine you are eight years old. Your reading skills are still developing, and the really good stories, like Harry Potter, Star of Kazan, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory are quite challenging. Would your eight-year old self choose a book?
I like to think I would have. But, when I was eight there were no computer games or iPods to contend with. My parents didn’t pay for cable, and we got our first Nintendo games when I was 10. But, most importantly, my parents made time for reading. We cannot expect children to choose books when there are so many other appealing choices.
How can we help children become readers who love books?
1. Remove Choice – Create Reading Time
Children who can choose between a computer game and a book, will often choose the computer game. Thus, set aside a regular time during the day when reading is the only option. The first two to four weeks will be the most painful as children complain and rebel against this new limitation. But, give them time. Within a couple of months they will start to complain when they have to miss their reading time. Make the “Reading Time” routine at least 20 minutes long (ideally it lasts 30-40 minutes). Reading Time should happen at a similar time every day or every other day.
2. Increase Choice – Provide a Variety of Reading Materials
When they start to complain, “I don’t want to read,” batter them with options of what they can read. Even if you don’t have a lot of children’s books in your home, there is always something to read.
- newspaper articles
- online stories (Google it – or try Popular Children’s Stories)
- instruction manuals
When I start to hear grumbles about reading time, I usually say something like this: “This is reading time – that’s what we do right now. You can either choose to read a book from the library, or a book on the computer, or I can choose something for you to read.” Immediately the kids shift their focus away from the problem of reading time, to the problem of what to read during reading time.
3. Improve the Quality of Choice
If reading isn’t fun, then kids won’t choose it. The goal is for children to want to read! One way to encourage this is by providing fun books. Check out my GoodReads book list for some ideas, but most importantly LISTEN to the child. Some kids like funny books, while others want adventures. Find books that connect to the child’s life, for example if the child has a younger brother, you can recommend Superfudge by Judy Blume.
4. Read Together
For many children, reading can be a lonely experience. They may feel isolated, and therefore it may feel like a punishment. Children of all ages (even adults) enjoy reading together. My husband and I have read-aloud parties over our weekend breakfasts. Sitting at the table, we take turns reading from The BFG by Roald Dahl while sipping our coffee. When I was in college, my girlfriends and I would create reading parties. Even when we read different books, it was a peaceful and joyful experience to read in the company of others.
5. Talk About Reading
Asking children about their reading not only shows we care about them as readers, but that we care about them in general. Engage children in conversations about their books, share your excitement about the themes, characters and setting. Ask questions about what they think will happen. Make connections to the things the book reminds you of. Oooh and ahhh over the passages they share with you – pointing out clever word choice and powerful language.
- Suggested Books for 3rd Grade Reading Level (brighthub.com)
- Developing The Reading Habit in Children! (socyberty.com)