I have three boys with three different learning styles and paths to reading. If you believe there is only one way to teach a child to love books, I urge you to have more than one child. And then try to teach them to read.
This great post and discussion at Imagination Soup (what a great name!) got me thinking about all the things I've done over the years to encourage my kids to read, from alternating reading pages with them (tip#1), to allowing them to check out ridiculous numbers of books (tip#2), to paying library fines larger than my tax bill (almost) (this is not a tip I would recommend).
Today we made our annual trek to the library to enroll in the library's summer reading program (tip#3), the one where the library hands out t-shirts and coupons for ice-cream to kids (and adults!) that read a certain number of books over the summer. We proudly sport our library t-shirts from years past (tip#4), nodding to our friends with similar shirts in a knowing way, like members of a secret club.
In another recent sojourn to the library ("Mom, I'm out of books!" "Again?" Sigh), I came across a friend whose daughter had resolutely declared her intent to NOT read chapter books just moments before. EVER. Good daddy that he was, he had allowed her to pick out a host of picture books well below her reading level (tip#5), and they were stationed at the window, alternately looking out at geese and reading about the adventures of D.W.
Knowing that other adults can somehow influence my children in ways I never can, I swept in and announced that I knew of some books that she would like. Books with animals. TALKING animals. MAGICAL TALKING animals. Did she like magical talking animals? Yes, she did.
I scooped up a couple Magic Tree House books that Mighty Mite and I had recently consumed, and gave her a pitch (tip#6): "This is a book about magical seals. They don't really talk, but Annie can understand them anyway." She nodded, very slightly, because of course that sounds like an intriguing book, doesn't it? I held up the second one, open to one of the wonderful pencil illustrations inside. "This one has a baby penguin that does something very special to help Annie. But I can't tell you what it is. You have to read it."
She wasn't going to admit that the books were awesome (though she wasn't fooling me), but I do believe they went home from the library with her (tip#7).
Putting the right books in little hands at the right time (tip#8), by whatever means necessary, is a key part of encouraging kids to read. Reluctant readers will be excited by a story, the pictures inside graphic novels (tip#9), or simply that their friends have read it. I've read to my boys, even when they could read it themselves (tip#10), scoured the library shelves with them (tip#11), and made more trips than I can possibly count to the library and bookstore. I have one avid reader, who literally demanded that I teach him to read at age four. Then I have two reluctant readers, who nonetheless read. A lot. One reluctant reader just recently converted to Avid status, once he was able to read Harry Potter on his own. And I'm sure that my final one will come along in time.
Resistance is futile, when Mom is determined.
Another good lesson to learn in life.
What do you do to encourage your reluctant readers?
p.s. In an attempt to model good reading (tip#12), I joined the library reading program this summer, for the first time. I want a t-shirt, too! Plus, maybe this summer I'll whittle down that TBR pile after all.
Susan Kaye Quinn
My blog: www.ink-spells.blogspot.com (writing and reading kid's books)
My novel: www.LifeLibertyandPursuit.com (a teen love story)