While sipping a cup of coffee this morning, I watched a school bus pick up several excited children. I prayed that more children would be excited about school. Most of society’s problems would melt away if children were more interested in learning than in finding out who ranks highest on Candy crush or some other video game.
I am so excited to share this guest post from Jim Denney! He is a master at inspiring children to read. His Timebenders books are fabulous and a must read for any child. Jim Denney has helped parents in true Mommy Detective fashion. I hope you will use the following tips to help your child succeed through this school year and beyond!
10 Ways to Inspire Your Kids to Love Reading
by Jim Denney
Some of my earliest memories are of my mother reading books to me. And some of my happiest memories are of reading books to my own children.
My two kids are grown now, but they still talk about a summer trip we took to the downtown library when they were small. We spent a leisurely couple of hours exploring the shelves of the children’s room in search of treasures. After that, we drove around, visiting city landmarks, and finally ending up at City Hall. On a whim, we went to the mayor’s office, arriving just as she was leaving for lunch. She graciously paused and chatted with us—a memorable conclusion to our library trip.
The key to encouraging children to become lifelong readers is to help them associate reading with fun, adventure, and warm memories. Unfortunately, all too many kids forsake reading as they begin to associate books with schoolwork and pressure from parents and teachers.
There are many entertainment options competing for your child’s attention, including videogames, social networking sites, and smart phone apps. So we need to think strategically about ways to instill a love of reading in our kids, beginning when they are preschoolers and continuing through their teenage years. Here are some ideas:
1. Create a cozy reading nook for your child. The ideal book nook should contain a comfortable chair with easy-to-reach bookshelves, bookmarks, a handy dictionary, pencils and a notepad, and perhaps an ebook reader (kids love ebooks!). In the wintertime, add a blanket for snug reading.
2. Encourage younger children to practice their reading skills. Have them read picture books to you. Also have them read from recipes, grocery lists, joke books, and newspaper comic strips. Play simple family word games with your kids to help them develop confidence with words.
3. Creatively combine reading with meals and snack times. Serve soup with a reading from Louse Ehlert’s Growing Vegetable Soup, which tells how the vegetables are grown. Read Marjorie Priceman’s How to Make an Apple Pie, a tour of all the places where apple pie ingredients come from—then make a pie with your child. Serve breakfast, lunch, or dinner with a mealtime rhyme from Hot Potato by Neil Philip.
4. Involve family members. The next time you Skype with grandparents or aunts and uncles, encourage your young child to read to them. Help your child choose a book that he or she can read with confidence.
5. Publish family book reviews on the Internet. Start a family blog site, and let each member of the family post book reviews, lists of favorite books, trips to the library, photos of book covers, stories about author visits at school, and other book-related postings. Encourage your kids to think deeply about the books they read.
6. Feed your children’s interests with magazines. Our son was a sports fanatic, so we gave him a subscription to Sports Illustrated Kids. Our daughter was fascinated by animals, so we got her a subscription to Ranger Rick, published by the National Wildlife Federation. Choose any subject that will motivates your child to read.
7. Read the book and see the movie. Take your kids out for ice cream or smoothies and discuss the film and the original book. Here are some conversation starters: How was the movie different from the book? Why do you think the filmmakers made those changes? Which did you like better, the film or the book—and why? What was the moral of the story? Who was your favorite character? What would you have done differently if you were the author or filmmaker?
8. Encourage your children to adapt their favorite books to other mediums. Kids enjoy making drawings, collages, and dioramas based on characters and events in their favorite books. Encourage them to create book-based plays or puppet shows to perform for friends and family.
I was once invited to be a guest author at a party in a home. My young fans were dressed as characters in the book, and had re-created many scenes from the book with drawings and three-dimensional artwork. They even sculpted the head of the villain, the evil Silver Dragon, out of cardboard and aluminum foil—then had the Dragon consume the hapless author!
Young readers love to explore the worlds of their favorite books. Kids who become deeply involved in their reading are far less likely to lose the reading habit as they grow older.
9. Sign up for email announcements of library events. Take your children to story times and author appearances at your local library. Encourage your children to view the library as a fun and friendly place where the shelves are lined with wonders and adventures.
10. Encourage your child to write and illustrate a book. Your child will learn what it’s like to be an author by making up a story and writing it to share with others. That experience will enrich your child’s appreciation of books.
When my son was in kindergarten, he came to me and said, “Daddy, would you help me? I want to write a book about a boy who invents a time machine.” We worked on the project together for a week. My son eventually lost interest—but I didn’t. I wrote it up as a book proposal and sold it to a publisher. That idea became the four-book Timebenders series—and I dedicated the first book, Battle Before Time, to my son, who gave me the idea.
I know I promised “10 Ways to Inspire Your Kids to Love Reading,” but I can’t resist giving you one more—because this is the most important suggestion of all:
11. Read with your kids. How long should you keep reading with them? As long as they’ll let you.
Jim Brozina is a retired school librarian in Millville, New Jersey. As a single parent, he worried that he and his daughter Kristen might drift apart. So Jim came up with a plan to maintain the father-daughter bond: They would read together every night for a hundred nights.
Jim and ten-year-old Kristen began with L. Frank Baum’s The Wizard of Oz. They finished that book and kept on going, night after night after night. What began as a hundred-night challenge became an unbreakable habit.
When Kristen was in high school, father and daughter were still reading together every night without fail. Kristen recalled her prom night: “Before I went out, I had my hair in my up-do and my fancy dress on. I climbed into the bed next to Dad and he read to me.”
Their nightly ritual continued until Kristen went away to college. Jim helped Kristen move into the dorm, then father and daughter sat on the steps and read together one last time—from the book they began with, The Wizard of Oz. They both choked up as they read. Their reading streak had lasted nearly nine years—3,218 consecutive nights.
After earning a degree in English Literature, Kristen wrote a 2011 book called The Reading Promise: My Father and the Books We Shared. She wrote under the pen name Alice Ozma, taken from Alice in Wonderland and the Oz books.
Encouraging a child to read requires commitment—and I can think of few commitments in life that could be more rewarding for both you and your child. As someone once said, your children won’t remember you for the material things you gave them; they’ll remember knowing that you cherished them.
Jim Denney has written more than 100 books, including the Timebenders science fantasy adventure series for young readers—Battle Before Time, Doorway to Doom, Invasion of the Time Troopers, and Lost in Cydonia. He is also the co-writer with Pat Williams (co-founder of the Orlando Magic) of Leadership Excellence and The Difference You Make. Follow Jim on Twitter at @WriterJimDenney. He blogs at Jim Denney’s Timebenders.