Sunday, June 28, 2015

How Do You Get Kids Interested in Reading?

As a follow up to last week's blog post, 10 Ways to Inspire Kids to Read, I spoke to Rebecca Levingston on ABC Radio. We chatted about audiobooks, hanging out in bookstores and libraries and ways to help a child find that next great book.

It might be a rainy school holidays so the perfect time to get down to the library or bookstore or download an audiobook and hunker down inside.

Feel free to leave comments below with your own ideas on inspiring kid and teen readers. (And adult readers, for that matter!)

Monday, June 22, 2015

10 Ways to Inspire Kids to Read

Are you the parent or teacher of a kid or teen who is not yet a reader?

As a child I read books because I wanted to. I didn’t read because it was good for me. I didn’t read because adults wanted me to read. I read because I was allowed to read whatever I liked and it was fun.

I have one son who devours books and another who loves stories but won’t necessarily choose reading over other activities. I’m on the reading journey with both of these guys, and with thousands of kids that I speak to in schools and at events each year.

Here are my top 10 tips on inspiring kids to read...

1. Read to Them
Even if they’re teenagers. Read to your husband or wife or boyfriend or girlfriend. Read to your teenagers or toddlers or your parents. In my experience, everyone loves having a story read to them. Find a book you both want to read and make reading a social activity. Don't stop when they're seven.

2. Help Them Find the Next Great Book
When I read a great book, I want my next book to knock me off my feet, too. But it almost never happens. I might pick up ten more books before I find another brilliant one. But I keep on searching. I constantly put new books in front of my sons. I ask librarians, other kids, I research booklists online and I try to help them find that next great book.


3. Compromise
Don’t just give kids the books that you want them to read. I put Hatchet and When You Reach Me and Joey Pigza and The Giver in front of my son. He tried them but put them down. We settled on the The Hunger Games series and it blew his mind. He gobbled them in a week. Now he’s onto Morris Gleizman's Once, Then and Now. So listen to what your kid enjoys and try the nutritious reads again later.

4. Listen!
Audiobooks are the best way into the reading experience. Currently we are listening to Demon Dentist by David Walliams in the car on the way to soccer, to friends’ houses and on trips up the coast. To me, listening to an audiobook feels so similar to the reading experience. My son keeps saying, ‘This is such a good book!’ Try Bolinda Borrowbox or Overdrive through your library or sign up for a free month on Audible.

5. Show, Don’t Tell
Most adults I know say that they are too busy to read, but we still expect our kids to read. Growing up, my stepfather was always reading tough-guy writers like Wilbur Smith, Leon Uris and Alistair Maclean. We’d sit there and read together. Find a book, take the time, stop working and being such an adult, sit on the couch and enjoy.

6. Watch Trailers
I use trailers to give kids a taste of my books. For visual kids, which is to say almost all kids and humans in general, book trailers are a fun, painless way to make a decision on whether a book appeals. Here are a few trailers to get you started.

7. Try eBooks
We went travelling for a while so we all have Kindles in my family. (Here's an article on best eReaders 2015.) We don’t always read on them. In fact we all prefer paper books but eReaders are a cool way to sample books before you buy. They also allow you to get the next book in the series seven seconds after you finish the previous one. The books are inexpensive, too. Again, try Bolinda Borrowbox or Overdrive through your library or Kindle, iBooks and other apps on your device.

8. Short StuffTry books with short chapters or a book of short stories. Long chapters, even as an adult reader, can get you down. Short bites give you a sense of accomplishment, a feeling of moving forward. Good writers for kids understand this.

9. Hang Out in Bookstores and Libraries From an Early Age
My grandmother used to take us to huge bookstores and libraries as a treat and we’d spend hours inside. If you start this when kids are young enough they will never think that bookstores and libraries are ‘boring’. Bookshops allow kids to choose, to wander, to find the thing that they want to read and, potentially, to walk out with a new book. Find a store or library you love and visit frequently.

10. Relax
In Paul Jennings’ book, The Reading Bug, he suggests that a ‘reluctant reader’ is just a kid for whom the right book has not yet been found. Everybody finds a book that blows them away at some point. Go on the journey, try the ideas above, leave comments below with your own tips or thoughts by clicking ‘comments’ and enjoy the ride!

Here are some of my other posts that might be relevant:

5. My Top 10 Funny Books for Kids

And here I'm speaking to Rebecca Levingston on ABC Radio about inspiring kids to read.

Thanks to Amber Melody at The Beautiful Lens for the pics in this post.

Monday, June 15, 2015

Sydney Writers Festival Primary School Days

Andy Griffiths, Jacqueline Harvey, Tristan Bancks backstage at Sydney Writers Festival.
This year I was lucky enough to host Sydney Writers Festival's Primary School Days program. We toured the city and surrounds from Sydney Theatre in The Rocks to Penrith's Joan Sutherland Performing Arts Centre and Sydney Town Hall, encouraging thousands of kids to read, imagine and create.

I learnt a lot, watching Andy Griffiths rock the house, seamlessly blending stand-up comedy with tips on creativity. I interviewed Anthony Horowitz each day, sharing how his Alex Rider series changed his life. Jacqueline Harvey brought Alice Miranda and Clementine Rose to life with humorous anecdotes from life on the front line at an all girls' school. We shared our Room to Read World Change Challenge, inspiring kids to raise money to buy books for kids in Nepal. And Leigh Hobbs ran a Mr Chicken illustration masterclass to finish off each day.

The book is far from dead. Events like these turn books into rock 'n' roll. It is super-inspiring to see the magical effect that storytelling has on humans. Thanks to Sydney Writers Fest and the organisers of other large and small literary events around the country, making books live off the page and getting children (and adults) excited about reading and imagination.

The backdrop to Sydney Writers Festival.
Interviewing Anthony Horowitz at Sydney Town Hall.
Anthony Horowitz was generous and funny in his on-stage interviews.
Jacqueline Harvey and I sharing the Room to Read World Change Challenge with kids at Sydney Town Hall.
Leigh Hobbs bringing Mr Chicken to life for 800 kids at Sydney Theatre.
'Do the unexpected!' - Andy Griffiths.

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Worst Dentist Ever

When I was five years-old I did a runner from the dentist. My grandfather depicted the epic escape in this illustration. Now, I'm writing a story inspired by it for my fourth My Life book of semi-autobiographical short stories.

Alongside the story, I'm going to include a list of the worst dentist trips in the world ever. I've been brainstorming with kids in schools and I would love you to add your horrendous dentist experiences, too.

Leave your idea below as a blog comment (Click 'Comment'), include your first name and, if I include your idea, your name will be in My Life book 4 (out March 2016)!

Messy Brainstorm with Shailer Park SHS students for Worst Dentist Trip Ever list. Some great ideas.


Saturday, May 30, 2015

How to Make a Book Trailer

It's on again! Perhaps the biggest book-trailer-making competition in the country - LitVids. Five years ago, Mackay Regional Council ran the inaugural LitVids and, each year, the number of entries has doubled.

You must be a resident in the Mackay Regional Council or Central Highlands Regional council areas to enter. For all the details on cash prizes in three different age groups and deadlines for entry hit the LitVids page. I'll be announcing the winners at Whitsunday Voices Literature Fest on 15 July.

I'm running talks and workshops via Skype over the next couple of weeks:

Friday, June 5
Gordon White Library Meeting Room
4pm to 5:30pm

Tips and Tricks to Creating a LitVids Entry (Full-day Trailer-Making Workshop)
Saturday, June 13
Gordon White Library IT Room
9.30am to 3pm

In this post, I'll share some of my book trailers, a few that I love from other authors and my top five book-trailer-making tips.

First up, here are the three My Life book trailers that I have made over the past three years. They use simple techniques to bring the books to life. Watch them and consider the elements that were needed to make them - things like images, music, voiceover, video editing software, video transitions from shot to shot, actors, false teeth and slime.

Here's the trailer for Two Wolves. I wrote the story and asked a newsreader to record it for me...

Here are two of my favourite trailers for other authors' books...

And a couple of my favourite student LitVids book trailers from last year's competition. Check out the LitVids Vimeo channel for more.

My Top 5 Tips for Trailer-Making

1. Choose a book you really love. Your trailer is a tool to get other people excited about your favourite book.

2. Write a 30-second to 1-minute trailer script. Remember: Short is good. Long is bad.

3. Pre-visualise your trailer, gathering images, music and other videos for ideas. Try using Story Scrapbook, my free transmedia story brainstorming tool at

4. Shoot and edit. Or, if you're using still pictures, gather your images and music and edit. (Make sure you own the copyright to the images or search for Creative Commons or Royalty-Free images and music. Find these sites in the LitVids Participants Pack.

5. Enter it into LitVids or, if you're outside the LitVids council areas, share it on YouTube, Vimeo and submit to some book trailer-making competitions, win the big bucks and retire to the Caribbean.

You can also check out Anatomy of a Book Trailer at Sydney Writers Centre for more tips.

Good luck!
© Tristan Bancks | Australian Children's & Teen Author | Kids' & YA Books. All rights reserved.
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