So, it’s almost summer vacation, and that can only mean one thing…reading! No, just me? I have fond memories of starting my summer vacation with a novel. For me, the end of school meant reacquainting myself with the joy of reading for pleasure. When I was an undergrad, that meant staying up all night reading Margaret Atwood’s Alias Grace, when I was 9 it meant reading as many Archie Comics and Baby-Sitters Club (the cool kids called it BSC)* books as I could.
Before 9, summer reading felt like a chore. I hadn’t hit my stride or found books that I loved enough to get reading. I was a a reluctant reader, being read to was nice enough, but I hadn’t developed the skills to read books that interested me. Reading felt like a lot of work and I hadn’t yet found materials that I felt were worth the effort. What I needed was that first book or series, something so exciting that I would find the motivation to read. For me, it was Archie Comics and then Baby-Sitters Club books, but every child has different motivations. I believe the key to raising readers is finding reading materials that a child finds so interesting that the content incentivizes reading and makes it feel worth the effort. This is particularly true when kids are used to the instant gratification than can come with screens.
While there are many excellent ways to motivate reluctant readers, with bribes like seeing a movie after reading a book, often working quite well, I think of finding books for kids as a bit more like falling in love…or at least out of hate. Read Kiddo Read touches on this issue with a list called I-Hated-to-Read-Til-I-Read-This-Booklist-for-Boys that aims to get boys reading and, while I don’t love gendered book lists, it is notoriously difficult to get boys reading.
That’s what matters, getting them started. When I talk to young readers, they sometimes tell me that they hate reading, but if nudged they often have an exception. A book that they loved so much they’d read all of the time if books were like that. So we start from there, I find similar books for them, provide them with options, and try to get them to lead with at least one book that they’re excited about. We can improve the chances that they’ll love the book by having them read a single page, not page 1 (too much boring exposition) to see if it piques their interest. If it’s “boring” than they won’t bring that book home. And why not take two or three books home if they all sound good, there’s no pressure to read all of them, but likely one of the books will work for the child.
As adults, we sometimes approach reading in ways that don’t work. I’ve had parents ask if they should force children to read or incentivize reading. I disagree with forcing children to read and, if incentives are not used appropriately, we risk making making reading a chore that has to be done to get to something better. I think a smarter trick is to figure out what is something your child absolutely loves and find books that feature that content. It doesn’t need to be outstanding literature, it needs to be interesting to your child.
I’ve prepared a number of “boredom busters”, book lists that feature content that, I’m told, kids are into. For example, take your kid to see Wonder Woman? Why not continue the experience with a book? And it’s not just Wonder Woman, we’ve got books about Pokemon, Minions, Frozen, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Lego Chima AND Ninjago, Monster High, something called Skylanders which, like Minecraft, I only know two things about…kids are into it and the WPL has books about it. If you’re dealing with a reluctant reader it’s all about finding what the child in your life likes so much that they’re willing to read to get more of it. Oh, and as a further incentive, some of these books are available through Hoopla which means they’re instantly available on your device…and what kid doesn’t want more screen time?
Hopefully, there’s something in these lists will help move your reader from reluctant to ravenous…or at least give them an idea that reading can be worth the effort. Summer can be a great time for kids to change their mindset around reading and develop a lifelong love of books…or it can be a time during which their literacy skills regress. Take advantage of the many free resources at the WPL to get and keep your kid reading. There’s no minimum age for a WPL library card and getting kids their own library cards can feel like a real milestone. Plus, you can set up parental controls on Hoopla and other e-resources to ensure your child is accessing age-appropriate materials and find more recommendations based on their reading preferences. E-resources can really help with the guess work of finding the right book for your child.
This is the summer your child discovers a love of reading. At the WPL we’re here to help. Don’t be shy asking staff for recommendations and try checking out more books than you think you need to see if one of them piques your child’s interest. If you’re interested in more subject lists for kids feel free to ask in the comments and I’ll see if I can publish lists for your budding reader!
*Actually, I don’t know what the cool kids called it.