Any good parent knows that reading is the foundation of education. If a child loves to read, they tend to excel in all aspects of school. Science, Social Studies, Art, as well as Math class requires some level of reading comprehension in order to succeed. The daily battle a parent faces with reluctant readers can be exhausting. So, the question is: How do I get my tween to love reading?
It’s all about interest
Even adults can be lulled to sleep by the reading of topics that hold no interest to them. So why do so many teachers and parents push books onto their kids that don’t engage the targeted reader? Most of us see a classic like The Lord of the Flies or The Chronicles of Narnia and assume that if we enjoyed it, our kids will too. We learn the hard way that this just isn’t the case. Maybe your child is scared by the thought of being stranded on an island (Lord of the Flies), or he/she lacks the imagination to visualize a talking lion (The Chronicles of Narnia). In order to get your kid to pick up, and not put down a book, you have to find just one book that appeals to them and possesses a level of relativity. If they can find ONE novel that they can’t put down, they could potentially be hooked for life!
Start with your local library. If your child doesn’t have a library card, SIGN THEM UP! Having their own card is an accomplishment on its own. When a child has the ability to borrow a book, and be responsible for it, they naturally take ownership in the process.
Once your son or daughter is there, introduce them to the on-staff child librarian. Jupiter and Tequesta branches have dedicated, full-time child librarians who know where to send your kid when they are looking for a book to spark their interest. Give your child a number, suggest they take home 6-10 books that seem appealing from the book jacket alone. With the guidance of the librarian, your little reading rebel should be able to walk out the door with a heavy stack of books!
Make reading stamina a rule
Any reluctant reader will see a stack of library books as a chore; they won’t squeal with joy because they just checked out 10 books. The key here is to get your child to see that one or more of those books holds hours of imaginative fun! Most young readers need to be drawn in quickly, as they aren’t used to working for their entertainment (thanks iPhone). Set a rule with your child that they pick one book a day from the stack, and read through the first three chapters. Since most books need time to expose the reader to the backstory and characters, that exposition can be less exciting for the reader. If after the three chapters your child still sees nothing of great interest, it’s time to move that book to the “return” pile.
When my daughter started to really complain about daily reading logs for school, I knew we needed to get her hooked before she developed an aversion to reading. It took a few trips to the library before she found the book series that eventually turned her into a reading star. Be patient. This process can take a few days, or even months before your child discovers a book that grabs ahold of their attention.
Set the example
I recently saw a cartoon depicting two families sitting on a park bench, one family is buried in their phones and the other is reading. The caption showed the mom of the phone-family posting a complaint on Facebook that her kids “just weren’t into reading”. We can no longer claim our kids as victims of the technology age when we are victims ourselves. In order to spark a love of reading, we have to set them on this path through our own example. When you take your child to the library, when you encourage them to read those first three chapters, JOIN THEM. Even if you aren’t a fan of reading, make it a team activity. Find a comfortable and quiet space and join them. Set dedicated time aside for it to become a family activity. If you have a large family, make it a special time for you and your struggling reader. Not only are you showing your child that reading is important, you are showing them that they have a partner.
Listen and discuss what they have read
Especially when your child still hasn’t found the “right” book, ask them why. Have them tell you what they didn’t like, what was missing, what they want. This is crucial information that you can take back to the librarian (or Google) to help find exactly what they are looking for.
Also, be prepared to read those books too because when your tween finds a book or series that they love, they will WANT to talk about it! Encourage these conversations because they not only get your child discussing the book, its character and plot development, but it helps create a common interest that you and your child can share and discuss just for fun. When my daughter wants to talk about Roblox, I die a little inside, but when she wants to tell me what happened in book 6 of Wings of Fire, I am ready and willing!
Foster this new found interest
Once your child has found a good book, it’s important to keep going. Now enters my favorite place: Barnes and Noble! Once you have them hooked, Barnes and Noble (or any large bookseller) can become like Toys R Us to your tween. If there is one place that a kid should be allowed to shop, it’s a bookstore. I take my daughter once every 6 months or so and tell her to pick 4 books of her choice. She goes nuts! Books are expensive, but when she is done, she shares them with friends, or donates them to the local mobile library.
I have also found that reading for pleasure is a great way for my daughter to earn her “technology time”. We all have noticed when our kids have become too wrapped up in their electronics, whether it be a video game, or Youtube. I have found that by insisting my daughter read from one of her treasured Wings of Fire books in order to earn her technology time, she will often end up getting pulled into the story and read for the rest of the weekend or holiday break. Requiring your child to read a chapter or two of their favorite book before watching TV, playing video games, or scrolling through the internet is an easy and pleasurable way to break them away from their electronics while also instilling a true love of recreational reading.
Remember, EVERY tween can learn to love to read if they are set up for success. Call your library, carve out some reading time, and watch them go. Good luck and happy reading!