If you've got kids in elementary school, chances are you've seen Jeff Kinney's Diary of a Wimpy Kid series recently. These funny, thoughtful comic book-novels are everywhere: bookstores, classrooms, backpacks, and I even find them tucked under my son's pillow since he often falls asleep reading them! Kinney just released the 11th book in the series, Double Down, and to celebrate this, we caught up with him to talk about how he became a reader, how he's raising his own kids to love reading, and to see what advice he might have for other parents.
How did you get into reading?
Kinney: I read a lot when I was a kid. I'd say I spent at least an hour a night reading. I grew up in a house full of books. My mother was an early childhood educator, so we had shelves full of award-winning picture books. My sister had the entire Judy Blume canon, so I'd swipe one of those from her room every so often. But my father was the most influential in creating a love of reading in me. He had piles of comic books from the 1950s and 60s, and I loved reading and rereading those.
What's your favorite children's book ever, and why?
My favorite writer was Judy Blume. Her talent was in telling ordinary stories that were extraordinary. And my favorite book was Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing, because I could see myself in Peter Hatcher.
How are you helping your own children learn to enjoy reading?
We keep lots of books lying around, and hopefully my being an author has some kind of effect. We try to find books that fall in line with the kids' interests, so there are lots of books about sports on my kids' shelves.
How are your Wimpy Kid books helping other kids learn to love reading?
I think my books are gateway books. They are halfway between picture books and pictureless chapter books. They help with the transition.
Any other tips for raising kids who love to read?
Don't be afraid to give your kids books on subjects they love, even if you don't share the same interest. Helping kids see that reading is fun is more than half the battle!