I do not read enough books, and my kids do not read enough books. I’ve had that nagging thought forever – like basically since my kids were born, but now it’s more than a nag it’s a conviction.
In December, I attended a reading workshop that was inspirational and informational, but my biggest aha moment was that if our kids are going to be ready for college (or law school!) they need to increase their reading stamina, and surprisingly, their assigned classroom reading is almost useless for achieving this goal.
The most disturbing thing I learned was that when students are assigned a book to read in the classroom, they don’t actually have to read the book to ace a paper or even a test because the class discussions, supplemented by YouTube videos, give kids the information they need to succeed without having to actually read the book.
Even the highest achieving students could potentially graduate from high school without having truly read any books at all. It was a sobering revelation, and a call to action. The speaker at the reading workshop has high school students who read 20, 30, 40+ books in a single school year.
So, what is her secret? How has she succeeded in getting kids to read a lot of books, and how can we get our kids to read more books at home?
Getting kids to choose a book, and then read it is a battle. They are busy, they don’t want to, they don’t have time, but they must, and we can help.
Offer a Small Selection of Books.
This is counterintuitive, I know, but years of library experience has shown me that the hardest thing for a reluctant or out of practice reader to do is commit to choosing a book. Many kids will wander around the shelves and have a hard time landing on something. If that sounds like your kids, then you might have to choose a few books for them until they get the hang of reading and choosing books again. If you aren’t sure what to pick you could ask,
- Moms of kids’ friends
- Book Sellers
- Amazon has several different ways to search for books. You could even use amazon for research, and then get the books from a library.
Reading is a skill that gets better with practice, and just like you wouldn’t go to the gym and start with heaviest weights, you shouldn’t force your kids to read something that looks educational, or hard. Accept anything they want to read, and be happy they are beginning to read again. When I have a reluctant reader in the library, I try the below strategies for getting a student to commit to choosing a book:
- Pick a book with a friend
- Pick a series, that makes choosing the next book easier
- A graphic novel
- A book that is also a movie
- Non-fiction with a lot of pictures
Have a Conversation About the Books and the Characters
It might seem impossible to have a conversation about a book you haven’t read, but if you keep the questions open ended you can do it, or you could read the book too! Below are some questions you can ask anywhere and anytime about a book your kids are reading. They work for any child, any genre, and can be starting points for a discussion in the car, at the dinner table, or on a walk.
- Which one of your friends would you recommend this book to? Why?
- Did the ending leave room for another book to come out?
- How could the book be turned into a movie or TV show? Who would play the main character?
- Which character did the author like the most?
- Which character is your spirit animal?
- Which character would you want to have a sleepover with?
- Why did the author write this story?
- Do you think the book ended the way the author thought it would?
- How did you decide to read this book?
- Is this an author or genre that you would like to read more of? What are your options?
Good luck getting your kids back into the reading habit!