In my classroom, I have so many parents tell me “I have done everything I can think of, but my child just doesn’t want to read.” I am here to tell you to carry on soldier; you are not alone. In the world today, there are more distractions than ever and kids not caring about books is a legitimate problem. If you are a teacher or parent out there feeling like you have tried everything you can think of to encourage reading, but sports, TV, iPads, etc. all get in the way… you are in good company. Here are 10 ideas that actually work to get kids reading and off those screens!
1. Keep Track of the Books you Read
It is now easier than ever to track the books your child reads. I think Goodreads is one of the best ideas of the century. What is phenomenal is that you can use that iPad in your favor with an app called Book Crawler. This app enables you to scan all of the books your child is reading (or wants to read). You can keep track of the number so that you can win prizes from libraries, bookstores, Pizza Hut, school, etc. There are hundreds of places your child can send or bring in their book list and feel the immediate gratification of winning something.
With Book Crawler, you can scan books (saving loads of time), find the book you want at the closest bookstore/library, and keep track of books you bought (yes, having little people means you forget immediately:). With Book Crawler, you can also connect your Goodreads, Facebook, and Twitter account to share books you and your child love.
For children 0-5, a huge movement called 1,000 Books before Kindergarten which is available at almost every library in America now. They too have their own app for tracking books. The community of the book sharing world will inspire both of you.
2. Make Books Accessible
Parents/Caregivers who read to their child and provide literacy rich environment from birth will ensure that by the time their child reaches 3rd grade, they will be proficiently reading ANY text given to them in school.
If you don’t have many books in your home, there is the place to start. This doesn’t mean spending a house payment on books; the easiest and cheapest way to fill your home with books is to get a library card. Books should be front and center in each and every room.
Fill each room (including bathrooms) with interesting and beautiful books. When we lived in West Africa, we bought tons of handmade woven baskets that make perfect places to put books in a corner:). Take kids on a fun field trip or virtual field trip and then have reading materials to encourage further reading.
Bonus: place journals and writing utensils next to the books; this way they can read or create something to read for others.
3. Learn about a Different Culture
The first time my husband and my mother in law put pigs feet on my plate for Sunday dinner, I had to take deep breaths in order to keep a straight face. I had no idea it was such a favorite in the South. It was certainly never served when I was growing up in California. Sometimes you are able to travel and meet people different than you are in real life. Our story of raising multiracial kids is a LOT of compromise and discussions about the differences in our cultural backgrounds.
Books can serve as the bridge to build empathy and knowledge about different cultures and race. Ignorance can be harmful to any child’s future and reading books that highlight strong characters from other cultures is vital as a young and impressionistic child develops reading and critical thinking skills. You can learn about food, holidays, religions, etc. through books and have a fabulous reading experience with kids.
Click HERE for a great list of multicultural books.
4. Choose Books from Movies
So very many of the popular children’s/young adult books are being made into movies. This gives you an easy way to connect a special outing with a book. Going to the movie theater or renting a movie on iTunes can be followed by reading the book together.
For example, with my 6-year-old, we watched Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (while eating gobstoppers), and now we read one chapter aloud either during dinner or bath time. She loves it and keeps saying “remember in the movie when ____”. This book might have otherwise been a little challenging, but because she has a visual of the characters and plot from the movie, she is able to soak in so many details. To get you started, click HERE for a list of 50 books that have been made into movies.
5. Take Away the Words
When I was learning the Turkmen language, my teacher started without text on the page. She used the pictures from Frog and Toad series and we had to make up our own story using descriptive sentences. Reluctant readers can make up stories for their favorite books. This will also inspire a child’s imagination which in today’s world is desperately needed.
Asking questions while a child “reads” a book can also be very engaging as your child is not intimidated by having the “right answer”. Because your child is making up the story as they go, they will feel more open to responding to comprehension questions you ask.
You can use any book with text by covering up the words. However, for a great list of wordless picture books, click HERE. (My personal favorite is Zoom by Istvan Banyai where readers play a fun game to guess what the picture is from mysterious landscapes of pictures within pictures.)
6. Make Food from the Book Theme
Making spaghetti and meatballs after reading Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs… yes please!! The possibilities are endless here. Dinner time is often overlooked as potential reading time with the family. Whether is a chapter from a favorite series, or a simple picture book, you can really engage your blooming bookworms with this strategy.
The most amazing website I have found that is full of creative ideas such as Sleepy Hollow slap jacks and Harry Potter peppermint toads, click HERE.
(Bonus: Tips on how to teach reading through cooking, click HERE.)
7. Make Your Own Books
You may have been inspired already to make a special reading corner at school or at home. If so, I want to encourage you to take it one step further. Set up a writing and art center or just a box in the reading corner will encourage kids to make books, posters, or collages with their own pictures and writing. I have seen proof each year in my classrooms and with my own child that kids absolutely love to read things they’ve written themselves. They love to proudly share their creations with family and friends.
My students always grabbed our classroom books that I had simply bound or just tied together with a piece of yarn full of their classmate’s stories and poems first. Having journals and writing utensils next to favorite books will definitely inspire your young reader to be the author as well.
8. Give Kids a Book Challenge
9. Be a Reading Role Model
10. Choose Books Intentionally
Also, be sure not to tell children the book they chose is “too hard or too easy” EVERY time. I read books that are too hard or too easy for me to fit my current mood all the time. Airplane books I take with me are too easy; research books and classic literature books are often “too hard”. They take a very long time to get through even with the help of a dictionary. They should be choosing “just right” books the majority of the time. However, every now and then, let them indulge in books that are too easy/too hard.
I hope you find inspiration or something new from this list. Please feel free to share in the comments with strategies you use at home or in the classroom. Let’s get kids motivated and find the joy in reading!
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