Get Kids Reading Like Crazy

How to ignite a passion for reading in children

by Nora Chahbazi

For me, summer as a child was thrilling because I could lie on the couch, the ground, or a lawn chair for hours, day after day, engrossed in reading about the adventures of The Bobbsey Twins or helping solve (or so I thought!) the mysteries that Trixie Belden got tangled up in. As I grew, so did the sophistication of the books I read. The Diary of Anne Frank ignited my curiosity about the Holocaust in junior high; in high school my love of historical fiction blossomed after reading Hawaii, my first James Michener book.

My wish is for all children to experience the passion, adventure, awareness, and education that stems from reading for fun. I also wish for you - their parent, teacher, grandparent, babysitter, or loved one - to assist them in that quest.
In schools, I often see that reading has become so clinical and sterile that children aren't aware of the joy that reading can bring. I’d like to share with you some ways and resources to help change that, for toddlers to teenagers.

First, get an idea of how well your child(ren) can read. Ask them to read a paragraph or two out loud to you. If they panic, guess words, or look at the pictures to try to figure out the text, they may need some instruction on how to read accurately before you get started. Asking or requiring someone to read when they are not good at it is certainly NOT fun for them.

Once you know they are capable and accurate readers, the first order of business is to find books on topics that they are interested in. At our reading center, we choose reading materials based on student interest rather than levels. Of course, if the text and vocabulary is significantly above their ability or understanding, finding another text (article or magazine, for example) on their topic of choice is more appropriate for them. As with adults, if children are interested in the subject matter of a book they are more motivated to read it! This form is a great tool for your students to fill out to help you learn more about their reading history, passions, and interests.

Now for the fun part: choosing books! Here are some websites, lists, and links to individual books to help get you started:

  • Read Kiddo Read
    • James Patterson, renowned author, has a son who was a reluctant reader. Since guiding his son to become a prolific, motivated reader, he has written books for kids and promotes reading for young people. This site is chock full of great resources and book lists for kids of all ages.
  • EBLI list of book series and other reading material
    • We created this list of books, book series, and resources that we use when choosing reading material for our students. We like series because once kids are hooked, we want them to be chomping at the bit for more!
  • Guys Read
    • These books target boys but of course may be of interest to girls too! There are links next to each book review to purchase the book. Scroll down to look for titles within categories like ‘At least one explosion’ or ‘How to build stuff’. After recently watching my 2-year-old nephew delight in building and then immediately destroying lots of his creations, it seems this site is right on target for what boys are really into!
  • Minecraft series
    • This is a mystery series revolving around the wildly popular Minecraft games. It has great reviews and appeals also to children who were previously reluctant readers.

Another great idea is to start a children's book club.  Here are some great resources:

Check out these tips from the PBS website on how to start, basics and book selection, and how to have great discussions.

The Kid’s Book Club Book

This book is reasonably priced and includes recipes and activity suggestions that go along with the books!

Book by Book

While this book is geared toward a Mother-Daughter book club, it has fantastic tips and suggestions for any book club.

Book Clubbing!

This is another book about successful book clubs for kids.

One other suggestion is to involve yourself and the rest of the family in the fun!   Activities that families can enjoy together while also enhancing literacy are a win/win.  Click here for a website with some resources and ideas.

Going along with this, you can read the books that your child(ren) are reading so that you can discuss them together. When my youngest daughter read The Giver, she asked me if ‘releasing’ meant that someone died or was killed. Of course not, I thought! I hadn't read the book at that point and I was wrong - that was exactly what it meant. I found it fascinating once I did read the book, and we had some profound conversations afterward.

Have fun forging ahead into the adventure of more and more reading this summer! Please share your favorite book suggestions and tips for expanding your child's reading in the comments below so others can benefit from them.

Happy reading!

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As always, THANK YOU for reading, commenting, sharing, and being an integral part of the EBLI community!

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