The kids are back to school and it’s time to hit the books! We asked author Alice Kuipers to share her best tips for encouraging kids to read.
1. Make a game of it: Send kids on a treasure hunt, the treasure being a book. Leave clues that lead them around the house to discover it in an unexpected place. If you’re really into it, the clues can be related to the story (Clue: Knuffle Bunny was lost in one of these…. Answer: Washing Machine). The magic of discovering a book at the end of the hunt will show your kids how valuable they can be.
2. Keep an eye on authors: If your kid loves a particular author, follow her online to enrich the experience—lots of authors and publishers have terrific sites with games, giveaways, activities and answers to questions about the books. Reading events at local bookstores with a superb author can make even the most reluctant reader take notice. Or encourage your child to write a fan letter to an author they’ve enjoyed. You never know, they may write back!
Read more: 17 classic books every child should read>
3. Bring a book: Next time you’re riding the bus or subway together or sitting in the doctor’s waiting room, pull out a book to read with your kid. It’s a more interactive and sociable way to pass the time than letting her play on an iPad while you check your phone.
4. Look beyond books: Graphic novels and comic books are very appealing to kids. Take them to the comic book store, or, even better, hit up a comic convention if you can. Along with the fantastic stories they’ll discover costumes, figures and artwork. I took five kids to the Saskatoon Blitz (comic convention) and saw my five-year-old delighted with a 3-D comic (who knew they existed?), two 15-year-olds gaga over illustrations, and my baby thrilled with costumed fantasy creatures. It really opened up the world of reading for them—and me!
5. Let them cultivate their taste: Accept that your kids have different reading tastes. Captain Underpants might not be your cup of tea, but your six-year-old will probably think otherwise.
6. Don’t force little readers: My youngest is sixteen months and would much rather eat books than sit still to read them. When we read to the older two, we let him race about and climb stuff, with the occasional pause in our laps to turn a page. Sure, reading’s good for kids, but they need to come to it in their own way.
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7. Turn the page: Research shows that the best way to get kids to read is for them to see you reading. Yes, that means you are totally allowed to lie on the couch with a book instead of getting down on the floor to build yet another tower.
8. Visit Storybird.com: Right now. It’s the most gorgeous website and on it your child can write her own story by selecting the pictures. You can even print the book later (it’s pricey but worth it). My kids love reading books they’ve written themselves more than anything.
9. Get involved: Look out for reading related events in your city. Word on the Street is coming up on September 21 across Canada and it includes plenty of kid-focused reading activities. Build your kid’s excitement by having an author sign a book just for them.
10. Offer books like candy: Have them around the house. Keep one in your bag. If your child is whiny or dragging on your leg, pull out a book. It won’t always be what they want, but any distraction helps.
11. Shop together: My teenager and I loved to go for coffee and then browse the bookshelves. It was special time for us, and while she may not have read everything I bought her, it did encourage her to settle down to read.
Read more: 10 books to read to your kids now>
12. Browse the blogs: The internet and books are not natural enemies. There are hundreds of terrific blogs by savvy book-reading teens that are full of reviews, author interviews, book tours and more. Once you’ve explored some of these sites together and if your teen is game, encourage her to join get involved writing reviews on Goodreads, or even start her own reading blog. If your kid gets good readership with her reviews, she may be able to request advance reading copies from publishers looking to promote their authors.
13. Give books as gifts: Books are keepsakes that never age like toys and fads do. Wrap up a book or present a gift certificate to a local book shop so the birthday kid can pick his own.
14. Loiter at the library: It’s rather obvious—libraries are filled with books—but they’re also a place to engage in other activities with your kids that gently nudge them toward reading. Our local library is always hosting fun events—puppet shows, readings, cool craft sessions—and we inevitably end up reading in a corner together long after the activities have ended.
15. Ease off: If you keep insisting that your kids read (or do most anything for that matter) they’ll resist. If you relax, stay patient and leave it up to them—make plenty of books available but don’t say a word—they’ll likely start picking them up.
What do you do to get your kid reading? How do you make reading part of your lives? Please share your tips because I’m always looking for ways to make reading fun!