By Milton Brown
What book did you read as a child that spurred your love of reading? Was it Gipson’s venerable Old Yeller? Was it the adventures of Nancy Drew and the Hardy Boys? Was it anything by Dr. Seuss? Was it the classic I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou? Or was it the bevy of fairy tales, tall tales, and fables that are a part of popular lore? Teachers and schools have been some of the most influential when it comes to reading. Elementary schools introduce us to many short stories and picture books. We gradually increase our aptitude for reading and books as we progress as readers – I am still astounded that Rhona Green was reading 2001: A Space Odyssey in the third grade!
Most of us have our favorites and many of us have fond memories of the book that made us fall in love with literature. I thank my Mom for reading to me on Sunday afternoons after we attended church. I also remember her “making” me go to the library (in the second grade) when she was comfortable with me crossing the street by myself. Oh how I loved the library!! I loved story time when the lead reader would pull out the sock puppets and bring the stories to life. I loved to just sit back on one of the overstuffed chairs and get lost in “Ferdinand’s world.”
Reading is a tremendously appealing, satisfying activity. Whether we like to admit it or not, we have a voracious appetite for reading and many of us have been influenced by adults. The adult – whether it be a parent, teacher, relative, or book salesperson – is remiss in the cultivation of children if they do not insist that the children in their midst become readers. (I will leave out avid, because technology has gotten in the way.) Before the proliferation of video games in our society, young people would sometimes read for two or three hours a day.
Children will become hooked once the adults in their lives consistently build it into their daily schedules. The key is getting children started. As children watch television and become enthralled in the development of the plot, we must remind them that the media has been based – many times – on a short story, novel, novella, or play. The thoroughly entertaining Harry Potter series is based on Ms. Rowling’s stories and over a billion people have read or seen a Harry Potter film.
Here are a few strategies to get young people more interested in reading. The goal of these strategies is get children more excited about reading.
Here are 7 strategies to get children to read more:
The first strategy is to have young people choose books or magazines related to their interests. This suggestion is far and away the most powerful one when it comes to encouraging those who are reluctant to read. When kids own the choice of what they will read, motivation increases significantly.
The second strategy is to make reading a social experience. Children who don’t enjoy reading alone often enjoy reading with somebody else. Children can read with their parents, siblings, other relatives, and friends. Some children even start mini-book clubs and discuss books related to their common interests. Asking children to read to their younger siblings and cousins can powerfully impact their own motivation to read.
The third strategy is to read aloud to children. Many parents regularly read aloud to their children when they are very young, yet stop this practice as the kids get older. Parents should read aloud to children throughout the elementary grades. Doing so makes reading more enjoyable, improves listening skills, builds comprehension, lengthens attention spans, and grows the imagination. The read aloud process can also apply to recorded books. How about playing a recorded book on the home’s music system so that the whole household can hear?
The fourth strategy is to take advantage of new technology. Children
who may not find books interesting may enjoy reading the same texts on smart
phones, and electronic readers, such as the iPad or Kindle. Technology makes
everything seem cooler and more engaging to children, and we should capitalize
on this fact when it comes to reading.
The fifth strategy is to be a role model to children. When children see
their parents reading frequently, discussing what they have read, and carrying
books around, they will value reading to a greater extent. The power of modeling
cannot be underestimated. As children get older, they can handle more mature
themes and adult situations. Parents and their children can read the same books
and discuss them around the dinner table.
A sixth strategy is to disguise reading. Parents can increase the amount
of time their children spend reading by subtly building the activity into other,
seemingly unrelated activities. Examples include reading menus at restaurants,
reading signs, reading instructions for how to operate a product, reading building
directions, reading the directions to board games, and looking at various websites
together. Children who may not yet enjoy reading for its own sake may enjoy it
tremendously when it is incorporated into other engaging family activities.
The seventh strategy is to be sure children read books that are appropriately challenging. Many times kids don’t want to read simply because the books they encounter are too difficult. This seemingly obvious point is frequently forgotten. None of us want to encounter frustration, and we will go to great lengths to avoid experiences that make us feel this way. Appropriately challenging books are those in which students can fluently read approximately 95% of the words. Encountering a small number of difficult words can help children grow in their reading skills, but encountering too many of these words can interfere with fluency and lead to discouragement.
There are many other strategies that may help children to read and appreciate reading. An overall strategy is to make children realize how important reading is to all facets of a person’s life and personal and professional development. A person who reads does better in all facets in life. So grab a book and start reading.