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We have books here. We have way too many books here. Between the collection my father-in-law saved from my husband’s childhood, the ones I own myself and those we’ve received as gifts, not to mention my years teaching in schools, we have more than we could possibly need. But it is still so hard to get my son to pick a book and sit down and read. So if you’re like me, wondering how to get your child to read on grade level, or read books that hold their attention, read on!
Every Reader His/Her Book
In 1931, S. R. Ranganathan proposed the Five Laws of Library Science and “Every Reader His/Her Book” is number two. But finding the right book for your young reader is not always an easy feat. Here are some tips for finding a book that will keep your children reading.
Consider their interests
Whether your kids are into Minecraft, sports, princess or pets, there is a book out there for them. You can find lots of blog posts on this topic with internet searches like “Books for kids who love__.” For one student who loved Minecraft, I found a series by Mark Cheverton that takes place inside the game. My student found a lot of joy in picking apart the things that couldn’t really happen in the game, and in predicting what was going to happen next.
Another tool I love for finding similar books is the website What Should I Read Next? It doesn’t always have some of the newer series for kids but it’s a great starting point for a search.
For early readers, there are a wide variety of stories featuring their favorite characters from TV and movies. My son read these Marvel Meet the Superheroes books over and over. For quick read-alouds and more independent readers, the 5-Minute Stories series has many books with favorite Disney characters. This Pixar collection is terrific, and there are also Disney Princesses, Avengers, and many others. My library has many options.
Some kids prefer non-fiction books. I always did. Don’t give up on stories for them, but definitely indulge their interests, whether it’s cookbooks, Guinness World Records or creepy animals! Try to encourage their interests in narrative by introducing them to the biographies of people in these fields, or stories featuring chefs or animals.
Consider their skills
If your child is reading at the same level as his or her peers, it’s a lot easier for them to grab any old book off the classroom bookshelf and get into it. If your child is an advanced or struggling reader, it can be harder to find a match between their maturity and interest level and their ability to read the words on the page.
Graphic novels are one option for getting more complex stories in the hands of reluctant or struggling readers. Even classic literature, like 1984, is now available in graphic novel form, which can make it accessible to kids who have a difficult time sitting down and paging through a novel.
If you’re looking for another idea for how to help a struggling reader at home, consider audiobooks. Many are available for download through the public library (Overdrive and Hoopla are two commonly-used services). Amazon’s Audible.com is a paid services that offers audiobooks, if you prefer to buy them.
If you’re struggling to get your child to sit down and read, grab our free Winter Reading Bingo board to get them excited about all the ways they can enjoy books!
Read to them (even when they are “too big”)
As your child’s reading skill grows, reading out loud to them is still a powerful way to enrich their vocabulary and build their comprehension skills for more complex stories. It’s tempting to tell your child to go read on their own all the time once you know they can but make some time for reading aloud in your week.
Reading out loud to big kids can even feel awkward, once they are too big to beg you for a story. Let them pick books that are too hard or too long to read alone. Or offer to take turns reading their book, especially at the beginning, to help build some reading momentum. You can even read them short selections of your own reading – things that made you laugh, or made you think, or news articles that made you think of them.
Audiobooks, especially at bedtime or in the car, can be a relaxing way to enjoy a story together. The Harry Potter and Narnia series’ are great audiobook experiences. Listening to books is a valuable experience on its own. Beyond that, the hope is that once you have introduced them to a book, or a series, kids will feel more confident picking those books up on their own a little down the road.
Good books matter
The volume of information we all have available to us can feel like drinking from a firehose. TV, YouTube, billboards, podcasts, video games and Instagram all scream for our attention. It takes deliberate planning to make sure we’re all digging in to quality literature, and not just snacking on whatever junk media comes our way. For our kids, sometimes getting them to read books means meeting them halfway, with graphic novels, audiobooks, or characters from popular media to help them develop the patience readers need to tackle bigger, more challenging, more rewarding reading.
Don’t forget to grab your Winter Reading Bingo Board!