It’s all very well for me to sit here and say, “Get your kids to enjoy reading!” “Reading is important!” “Make reading a joyful experience!” I can hear you all the way from wherever you’re sitting saying, “But HOW?”

It would be nice if it was as simple as making sure kids have access to books, and modeling the enjoyment of reading. Certainly these are important factors, but they don’t do it all.

After those magical, clickable words ‘read more’ (so appropriate in this case), I’ll give a few suggestions and a few links that may help in the care and feeding of the bookworms-in-the-making in your life.

Does anyone else remember those agonizing times in reading period at school when the teacher would go around the room and everyone would have to read part of the story aloud? Reading came easily to me, so my turn wasn’t a problem — I agonized on behalf of those who struggled to sound out the words, and who sighed with relief when their turn was over. I sometimes wonder if they ever learned to read for pleasure. That teaching method was certainly destined to make those kids feel even worse about their difficulties with reading than ever.

It’s been said many times by many people that it’s important to start young, with both reading to your children and letting them see you reading for pleasure. (If you don’t find reading pleasurable, call on your acting skills — every parent who has ever tasted baby food and proclaimed convincingly, “Yummmm,” has acting skills — and make it look as though you’re enjoying reading. You might just surprise yourself and turn into a bookworm, too!)

As for reading with them, snuggling with a book in one hand and your child in the crook of your arm is bound to connect reading with love, warmth, good feelings. Giggling over a story, using exaggerated voices, just having fun with books, can create those desired positive connections. My mother taught kindergarten for a couple of years, and she said she could tell right away at the beginning of the year which children had been read to and which hadn’t. The ones who had been read to were better able to concentrate, were more attentive, were more ready to learn.

If it seems a physical struggle to read, if the child constantly stumbles over words, mixes up syllables, throws down the book in frustration more often than not, be sure to check the possibility of a learning disability. These are often picked up in school, but parents and caregivers can play an active part in seeking out the best help for a child.

Don’t be a snob! That may seem like an odd thing to say when talking about reading, but quite often people don’t want their kids to read what seems to them to be trash, and so they discourage the one thing that child might actually want to read. When I was a child, I read and re-read my Bobbsey Twin books. I actually learned quite a bit from them — I doubt that my sixth grade teacher realized that the reason I was so well-versed about Washington, D.C. was because I had vicariously accompanied the Bobbsey Twins to Washington so many times. Yet our local librarian was horrified when Mum asked if they had Bobbsey Twin books. They didn’t promote reading such things! Thankfully, libraries are more open to such series now. If your child wants to read comics, or manga, or other sorts of graphic novels, encourage them! Finding pleasure in reading one type of book may well lead to the awakening of an enjoyment of reading. It’s no secret, nor is it a surprise, that after the success of Harry Potter, many more children were reading for pleasure than had been before.

Arrange trips to science museums, baseball games, fun fairs, whatever catches your child’s attention — then find books about the same subject. Have them see that reading can expand on their enjoyment of other pleasures. Make up your own stories, write them down, illustrate them. Have a book-signing party and invite the whole neighborhood. Play games in the car — we played “Geography” almost incessantly on long trips. It wasn’t exactly reading, but it was giving me a fluency with the alphabet and with words and maps, as I tried to think of a town, city or country that began with the last letter of the place said before my turn.

Lest I seem to be speaking only to parents and caregivers, there are plenty of ways we who don’t have children can help raise bookworms. And, unfortunately, there are plenty of kids whose parents aren’t interested in reading with them. Many schools (especially inner city schools) have programs where volunteers work one-on-one with children during school hours to encourage the development of reading skills — they’ll train you, don’t let lack of teaching experience stop you. If you know a neighborhood child who could use some one-on-one time, offer to take the child to the library, or to the bookstore with the promise that they can pick their very own book and you’ll read it to them, or regularly drop in with a stack of books. Volunteer for story time at a library, or day care center.

Whoever you are, or however you reach out to kids to get them keen on books, maybe you can be known as the family, or the neighbor, or the teacher, who celebrates author’s birthdays, using the blog of Eric VanRaepenbusch, Happy Birthday Author as inspiration.

Other suggestions are welcome! Please feel free to share in the comments.

Check out websites like Family Literacy Day — there are all sorts of suggestions there. Or James Patterson’s Read Kiddo Read. Or Reading Rockets, which “launches young readers.”

Hear more from Emma Walton Hamilton, who is In the Spotlight on my blog this week, on the importance of reading with kids, and on her book Raising Bookworms at one of the links below. (And remember the giveaway of two copies of Raising Bookworms. Details below the links.)

Direct link to Reading Rockets, with background information (interview in several parts)

Watch on Reading Rockets Site

Same interview uploaded to YouTube by Adolescent Literacy (a sister organization of Reading Rockets), interview is in full, but without the background information.

 Watch on YouTube

 

Don’t forget the giveaway!

I have TWO copies of Raising Bookworms available to give away, and there are two things you can do to make yourself eligible to be part of the draw I’ll hold next Monday, January 30, 2012.

Each time you do one of these, your name will be added to the entrants’ list, and on Monday, random.org will help me select two winners. So the more times you participate, the more chances you have to win.

  1. Leave a comment, mentioning something that particularly resonated with you in the post, on any (or all!) of my blog posts from today up to and including Friday of this week.
  2. Write a post about literacy on your own blog, and link back to this post. Be sure to let me know, so that I can read your post, and so that I put your name on the entrants’ list.

Either of these will enter you in the draw for one of the two available copies of Raising Bookworms. Doing more will enter you more times (for instance, if you read and comment on all the posts this week, you’ll be entered that many times). (Note: you’ll only be able to win one copy — once your name is drawn, it will be removed from the second draw, to give others a chance.) Through it all, we’re all supporting the cause of getting kids reading, and getting books into kids’ hands.

If you want to do something concrete to get books into kids’ hands (although this won’t affect your entries into the giveaway) I’d urge you to go to We Give Books (http://www.wegivebooks.org), sign up (it’s FREE), and read one of their ebook picture books. Simply by doing that, you will have enabled them to donate a book to a child who wouldn’t otherwise have access to books.

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