From Bored to Bookworm: How to Turn Kids Into Active Readers
Despite its incredible benefits, the digital age does have its downsides. It should come as no surprise that many of today’s kids have little to no interest in cracking open a book. All the fun videos, blogs, and social connections happen online – who would want to read an old book?
You may need to start early with your kids, but if you are persistent then reading will come off as both fun-filled and beneficial. Exciting stories and community reading activities are both key. Connect your children with books that speak to them and those pages will fly by. Here is a guide to important and unexpectedly easy ways to help your kids become lifelong readers:
Modern Reading in a Digital Age
The literature and publishing world is far from stationary. As technology changes, schools, publishers and libraries change their tactics to keep up. While kids may not be as exposed to books in the digital age, they have more resources at their fingertips to find the books and novels they want – personal interest is the key. A 2012 study showed that 8 out 10 Americans between 16 and 29 have read a book in the past year, with the younger bracket even more likely to use the library or read novels (probably as a result of school requirements).
But a real love of reading starts even sooner. Libraries are now using apps and websites to directly engage students and to encourage the use of e-books. Tools like library apps and online books have the potential to bring exciting novels to kids who would otherwise never pick them up. Technology also has the ability to enhance the reading experience, providing links to extra information or allowing kids to instantly look up words that they do not recognize. Online and offline resources are becoming increasingly related. Some authors are even creating interactive websites where readers help create characters that then become part of the story.
Of course, not all news is good. The prevalence of Facebook, Twitter, and news feeds makes it easy for kids to find all the information they want on only a few sites without ever cracking open a book. Some worry that children are growing up without the ability to read full articles, let alone novels. It still comes down to personal interest: Kids who want to expand their reading horizons have new ways to access books, but they need a good reason. This is where your actions as a parent or teacher become important.
Make Reading Happen: Tips and Projects
Making Time: As a parent, you must make time to read to your children. Reading time should be a fun, permanent part of each day; look for opportunities to associate reading with bedtime, snacks, games, or just snuggling. Spend at least 30 minutes a day reading to your toddlers and then reading with them when they are older. Spouses may have different reading interests and levels – by all means switch it up to expose your kids to differences in parental reading and book choices.
Don’t Start With Books: Instead, choose a different form of media. Start with movies, or videos, or games. Rhymes and songs can also be valuable tools on the path to reading. Language in any form can be an important step.
Goals and Awards: Some kids respond well to clear goals. Consider creating a chart or graph that shows how much your children are reading up to a particular goal. The goal could be a number of pages read, completing a novel, or finishing a whole series. When the goal is reached, arrange a real award, like a fun trip or gift.
Book Clubs: Look for school or local book clubs for kids. Other parents and libraries may also provide ideas for these groups. For many children in the digital age, reading works when it is a social activity and readers can talk about stories with their friends. Book clubs are a great reason to read and are a fantastic social activity.
Linking Reading to Real Life: For older kids, try to connect reading to real life events. These could be movies that you watch or games that you play, but current events in the news are also great material. Planning on taking a trip? Find some great novels about the locations you are visiting.
Book Exposure: Put your kids and books together in the same room and hope for the best. You may be amazed how well it works, especially with more curious children. So collect books in your house, visit the library, spend lots of time in bookstores, and wait for the magic to happen.
Get Started Now: Books with Hooks
Do not try to force reading on your children. If books become a chore or a punishment, you will end up doing more harm than good. If all fun activities fail, just make books available to your kids and wait. Sometimes reading is a lifestyle that children need some time to grow into. Finding the right type of genre and story is also important. Here are a few popular and highly recommended ideas that have worked for many kids:
Pick an Animal: Kids and animals go together like tightly bound pages. Guardians of Ga’Hoole is a famous series featuring a conclave of owls. Warriors is another much-beloved series featuring cat-related adventures. Of course, there is a long history of animal fiction for kids at your disposal. If your child likes an animal, there is sure to be a few books featuring it, probably as a main character.
…Or a Human Hero: Animals aren’t for everyone, and sometimes humans stories can be more worthwhile. Heroes of Olympus is popular series in children stories right now, combining action and adventure with some Greek myth knowledge. Classics like Harry Potter are also widely available.
The High Skies of Blue Jay the Pirate: This book combines pirates and animals – who could resist it? It may be the perfect high adventure tale for your younger readers.
Summer and the Bird: On the other hand, this fantasy tale about missing parents, an enchanted wood, and a fairy tale mission may be more interesting to some young readers – it certainly is one of the most popular choices!
Hunger Games/Twilight: Look to the popular movies to find popular books. Hunger Games and Twilight both have famous book series attached to their brands, making excellent entry points for older kids who have never read much before.
Ship Breaker: This teen book is an award-winning tale of a post-apocalyptic world where a young man has to make decisions regarding a beautiful castaway lost in a harsh land. It is an ideal book to prove that novels can be gritty, exciting, and cool.
Going Bovine: Another award-winner, this book is more fitting for teens who prefer a zany, humorous take on life. It follows a dying 16-year-old on a journey across America accompanied by his guardian angel, a gaming dwarf, and a lawn gnome.