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7 tips to turn kids into readers

  • For some kids, encouraging them to read is like encouraging them to get a root canal. Here are a few tips to show kids how reading is actually fun. (Shutterstock)

A lot of cultivating a reader consists of sitting back and letting them show you which way they want to go. But these tips will help you know how to sit back and how to step up.

1. Don't push your kids. "There's pressure that they should be at a certain point, that it's time for them to move into chapter books, and [parents say] no, you can't go back to that picture book," said Barbara Stripling, president of the American Library Association. "I think maybe the education system has done that to parents — put a pressure on accountability and that's not what reading motivation and enjoyment is all about." Let them spend time with picture books if that's what they want. They will get to the chapter books when it's time, and they'll do it because they want to.

2. Sick of reading the same book over and over? Don't stop, Stripling said. Kids like to be the experts and predictors, to "know what's coming," she said. "There's a reason this book is a favorite book to them. And they continue to enjoy it and it deepens their love of reading if you keep reading it." So, here we go again, "Library Lion."

3. Don't shun graphic novels or comics, advises Heidi Powell, manager of the children's department at Washington's Politics & Prose bookstore. The books offer various reading levels, help children understand story form and, of course, promote reading.

4. Children are never too old to be read to. A family reading night, or family book, will help encourage reading. Children will want to be a part of it, and sometimes they can get more out of a book by listening, rather than reading, because it can spur discussion.

5. Let older kids follow the blogs of their favorite authors, suggested Christine Riggen, a former eighth-grade English teacher. "It's another neat way to hook kids into reading," she said. They can learn how the authors came up with characters, how the books came about and more.

6. Help children form book clubs, then let them choose themes related to their lives. Riggen was in a coffee shop one weekend trying to grade papers. Instead, she listened as a few dads facilitated a group of 7- to 11-year-olds in their book club. The kids had "such a great conversation" and voted at the end of the meeting for their next book.

7. If you feel unsure about how to help a child or teen pick out the right book for them, ask a school librarian or other plugged-in adult.

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