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.
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.
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.
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:
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.