How do you get your kids to read?
Convincing the young, reluctant reader in your life to crack a book can feel like an impossible task. You're battling video games, iPhones and just general disinterest. So what are some ways to inspire a lifelong love of reading? Or even get kids to crack a book in the summer?
Geoff Herbach, a young adult author and creative writing professor in Minnesota State - Mankato, and Dhonielle Clayton, an author, librarian and COO of We Need Diverse Books, joined MPR News host Kerri Miller to share their tips and suggest some favorite books.
Read in front of your kids
Don't just read to them, let them see you reading for pleasure on your own.
"My dad is a reader, so I saw him reading and I wanted to be just like him — so I needed a book at all times," Clayton said. Modeling that behavior can make it contagious.
But don't get frustrated if it doesn't work. Many avid readers grow frustrated when their kids don't immediately share their passion. Keep trying.
Make books available at all times
Kids are more likely to crack a book if there are stacks around the house, or if you take frequent trips to the library. Make it so simple to pick up a book they won't be able to resist.
Think about books even when you're packing for vacation: Are you bringing reading material for your kids?
Even if your house is as stocked as a bookstore, you may still need to do some gentle prompting, Herbach said.
Never underestimate the power of "Harry Potter"
The "Harry Potter" series "was a gateway drug," Clayton said. "It really allowed kids to fall into a world that was so cool. That's why I love 'Harry Potter,' because when you give it to a kid at the right time, it unlocks something for them. Where other books didn't work, this one works, because there's all different kinds of stories inside 'Harry Potter.' Kids can come at it from all sorts of angles."
Let your kid outgrow reading aloud on their own timetable
"Read to them as long as they'll sit there and pay attention to you reading to them," Herbach said. If they don't think they're too old for it, they're not too old for it.
Don't force the classics
Even if you feel in love with Jules Verne and "Jane Eyre" as a young reader, it doesn't mean your children will. Forcing classics on reluctant readers won't make anyone happy.
"I wait until I've got them hooked," Clayton said. "I wait until I could pair it with something that's modern and say: 'Hey, let's read these two back-to-back.'"
Some books are "dessert books" — and that's OK
It might be cartoons or a picture book or something that feels light and fluffy, but it's still reading.
Turn on an audio book
Audio books are a great solution for kids who can't sit still or can't focus on the page. You can reel them into a story with the audio book, and go from there.
Slow down and check your expectations
"A lot of parents want their kids to be reading 'Harry Potter' at 7 and 8, and they want them to be reading these bigger books, thinking it's somehow a reflection of their intellect, when really the right book at the right time, and stepping the child through these levels and categories is so important — otherwise they miss the good stuff," Clayton said.
"I see it a lot — constant pushing from parents: 'Well this looks too easy, why are they still reading picture books?' Slow down. Let them enjoy and eat these books and get through all of them."
Let them loose in the library or bookstore
Don't handpick your child's books. Let them run wild — within reason.
Herbach remembers his mother plucking "The Omen" out of his hands when he was in the fifth grade. Probably a wise choice. But otherwise, he said, "a little freedom goes a long way to let kids find themselves in the books."
@KerriMPR I was never reluctant, but "The Dark Is Rising" sequence by Susan Cooper made me crazy for fantasy. 30 years later, I still am.— Scott Alan Johnson (@ScotAlanJohnson) August 11, 2016
Graphic novels (Baby Mouse, Jedi Academy) helped build my daughter's confidence and get her in the habit of sitting down to read.— lsl (@LSLinnell) August 11, 2016
Percy Jackson audiobooks on family roadtrips! Entertaining and appropriate for all ages plus counts as family time.— Kim Hruba (@KimHruba) August 11, 2016