Reading = Breathing

BookHunt_lWhat makes a child a reader? Parents and educators have been pondering that one aloud since the advent of television. I’m not sure, but it wouldn’t surprise me to hear it really started with the introduction of radio. Whatever the case, some kids love to read and others view it as a form of torture. Can you really make your child a reader? How? 

I’m pretty sure I was born with a book in my hand, but I’m very sure that the book that made me a reader was Pippi Longstocking. The story was so improbable, Pippi was so amazing … I couldn’t see what else I could find in a book. It turns out my experience was pretty common, although I didn’t discover it until I was an adult and attending a writer’s conference. The meeting room was filled because Katherine Paterson and Susan Cooper were both speaking. Someone decided to go around the room to see if people could remember the book that made her a reader. To my amazement, they could!

So that got me thinking. What if my KidWrite kids viewed finding the book that made them readers as a treasure hunt? Maybe that would get them to give reading more of a try. Again to my amazement, it worked with the majority of the kids. I was thrilled. They were thrilled. They felt as if they’d accomplished something wonderful. There were no rules or guidelines. They simply had to read until they found the book that made them want to keep reading to find out what happened next. Magazines counted. Comic books counted. Graphic novels counted. Poetry counted, too. There were a few kids who hadn’t discovered “their” book by the end of the school year. I knew we were on to something when they asked if they could continue over the summer and let me know in the fall. 

One byproduct of the process was that many kids eventually could tell you why a book didn’t work for him/her. That was almost as exciting as having a kid race in clutching a book. By reading a number of books, the kids were zeroing in on genre, voice, pacing — things they could recognize but not yet articulate. By taking their comments and using them while we talked about books after reading aloud, they developed a vocabulary that would serve them well for a lifetime.

If you’ve got a reluctant reader, give that child the Book Hunt Challenge. Visit the library and stay calm while your child goes through several books before selecting the first one on the journey. Some kids like a sticker per book to chart the course. Some don’t – but most really do. Make it fun. Pick a book for yourself while you’re there. Then sit and read a bit each day and see how it goes.

I have more make-a-reader ideas to share. In fact, I recently had a wonderful time with one of my kids who came to the library with me while I worked and then sat and read magazines on my iPad the entire time. He had a great time and I was ecstatic. Which reminds me – our library has a free subscription to an online magazine store. There’s also NextIssue, which is subscription base and has a number of options that are just right for my family.

You might also like to now that, while I’m not sure about the nook, with Amazon, you don’t need an actual Kindle to read the books. You can read them in a Kindle reader on any device. Also, you can get some ebooks for free if you pay a monthly fee for Kindle Unlimited. And – many magazine for kids are now available for reading online. I’ll post more about all of that next week. For this week, just issue the challenge and go with what’s on hand at your library or bookstore.

– Gina

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