When it comes to raising readers, you know the drill: start young, share books aloud, visit the library, and be a good role model. Excellent advice, all of it. But what if you've toed that line and your child still hasn't caught the spark? Or you've ignited a flame only to see it fizzle as he gets older and busier? Here we offer a host of creative suggestions and quick tips from FamilyFun readers, all tested and organized into seven simple strategies for inspiring both new and veteran readers.
1. Hook them on the story
A good yarn can reel in even the most reluctant reader.
Start it together: Read aloud the first few chapters (or pages of a shorter book) to get your kids interested in the story, then let them finish it on their own. Molly Cross of Temple Terrace, Florida, simply makes an excuse to step away. The Winns, of Vacaville, California, start audio recordings on car rides, then make copies of the book available for their four kids, ages 7 to 13, to finish.
Pique their curiosity: When her son, Jess, hit the tween years and stopped reading, Nan McDaniel would sit near him, quietly reading something she thought he might like. As she hit a particularly interesting part, she'd exclaim or laugh aloud, then share a compelling tidbit. It worked like a charm, says the Charleston, West Virginia, mom: "Before I could blink, the book was in his hands and being read with curiosity and delight."
Alternate print and screen: To help her 9-year-old son, who has ADD and struggles with reading comprehension, pay closer attention to stories, Laura Burnes of San Clemente, California, finds books for which there's a movie available online, and she and her son alternate reading a chapter with watching the film. "It's like a game trying to figure out what changed and what was left out of the movie," she says. "It's amazing how much he retains from the book when he knows he's going to be looking for differences in the movie."
2. Keep it fun
Present reading as a game, and kids will be clamoring to play.
Prediction board: The Reikofskis of Omaha, Nebraska, have turned reading books aloud into a game. Mom, Dad, and the six kids guess what will happen next. They record each person's predictions on a large whiteboard and award points for correct guesses. The family member with the highest tally at the end of the book gets to pick the next read-aloud title.
Midnight movie quiz: There's nothing quite so exciting as going to the midnight opening of a movie based on a book you've loved. The Reikofskis require both kids and adults to take a quiz on the story in advance. If more than half of them fail, they all read or listen to the book again, racing to beat the opening-night deadline. "The kids love this," says mom Aunesty.
Fact or fiction: Jennifer and David DiValerio of Newtown Square, Pennsylvania, and their daughters, ages 4 and 8, keep an eye out during the day for intriguing tidbits of information in everything they read. Then they mix the facts with made-up information and quiz each other around the dinner table to see who can guess what's real and what's fake.