How To Interest Your Child In Books

Want to get your child to read more books? Here are a few tips that may help to motivate a love of reading.

A hundred years ago, school children read often and well, mainly because there was little else to do except rely on their imaginations. Consequently, they grew up to be prolific readers, writers, and thinkers, contributing to a 20th century America that became great and strong as a global leader.

Today many school children not only do not read very often, some don't know how. An unfortunate number graduate high school with a third grade reading level or less. It's not uncommon to hear a first-year college student boast, "I've never read a complete book in my life."

That's a far cry from the previous generation, with precarious implications for the future leadership of our country. If you are concerned about getting your kids to read more, and enjoy it, here are a few tips:

1. Keep good books at home. Stock shelves, coffee tables, and bedrooms with classic tales or modern novels by authors who are worth reading. Subscribe to a book club or read publishers' lists to find out about new books that are coming out and which ones are recommended especially for young readers.

2. Reward family readers. From verbal praise like "I'm so impressed that you finished that book so quickly" to a penny per page incentive, parental support of a reading habit goes a long way toward encouraging kids to start and stay with a book. Establish a family reading time after supper or before bedtime. Take turns reading aloud or have everyone read their own book separately, sharing highlights over dinner.

3. Reinforce good stories. Rent or borrow films for books that family members have read, like Lord of the Rings or The Scarlet Letter. Discuss the film afterward, comparing characters, scenes, and plot development to the original book. Watch television documentaries about favorite authors or literary periods, such as Melville's writing of Moby Dick.

4. Sponsor a contest. Talk to your child's teacher about sponsoring a reading contest for the class. Students who read five or more books per month will receive special privileges, such as 10 minutes of extra playground time or free cafeteria lunches for a week. If the school has no budget for incentives like these, ask parents to donate or contact local businesses in the community to see if they will contribute to a reading program.

5. Hold a book fair. Ask the school to arrange one day to have a children's author visit to talk about his or her books, which will be on display. Children can also write and bind their own stories, exhibiting these for parents to view and admire. Biographies of famous writers and their work can be posted for discussion groups of parents with their children. Serving refreshments will add a special touch to the day.

6. Visit a book sale, convention, or trade show to expose your children to a wider world of stories and publishing. They will be amazed by the number and type of books on display. If some are for sale, try to get one for each child as a souvenir, which is so much more meaningful than an amusement part troll doll or stuffed animal.

Books are an important part of life. They teach us new ideas and introduce us to other people and cultures. Help your children understand their special role by following steps like these to celebrate quality literature.

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