Has your reader hit a rut?


Beth B. Hering


Here are some tips to get young readers moving We’ve all heard the warning: Read with your kids or they won’t become readers. So we all know how important it is to read together.

But sometimes getting in the recommended 15 to 20 minutes each day is easy and sometimes it’s not. Instead of giving up when you or your child find interest lacking, try one of these suggestions that I have used to get my son and me out of a reading rut.

Change the scenery Idyllic images of childhood reading time tend to revolve around a pajama-clad youngster listening in wonder to another bedtime retelling of Goodnight Moon as he snuggles up to Mom or Dad in an oversized chair. While this certainly is a great way for a parent and child to bond and enjoy the magic of reading, it is by no means the only way to do it.

The key to ensuring children will be readers for life is to show them from an early age that reading is a valued activity that can be done virtually anywhere. Take a few books to the park to read during a break in play. Build a reading fort in the living room from blankets and chairs. Sit down together in a library or bookstore and read whatever strikes your fancy from the bookshelves. Take along some books to read in the car while you wait to pick someone up.

As they get older, encourage your children to find their own special places to read alone. Paula Norton of Carol Stream, a mother of three, notes that her 12-year-old daughter, Robyn, likes to read under a shady tree on nice days or in a cubbyhole space in the basement.

Change the reader While the same person reading the same stories in the same way can provide a sense of comfort for children, it can also get a bit boring. Try mixing things up. Let the other parent read the bedtime story. Encourage older siblings to read aloud (which benefits both kids). Buy or borrow read-along books that allow your child to follow the pages while a tape or CD reads the story—or make your own recording starring Grandma reading a few books your child already owns.

Be sure, too, to take advantage of any storytime opportunities at area libraries and bookstores.

Change the material When you and your child go to the library, do you immediately head to the fiction section? While these stories may be the heart of children’s literature, they are not the only interesting publications.

Kids are naturally curious about the world, and nonfiction provides answers to many of their questions. Discover how spaceships travel to the moon, how mail gets from one place to another or how hibernating animals know when to wake up. Give your child the chance to choose a surprise topic by browsing a set of children’s encyclopedias together.

And don’t ignore the wealth of material found in children’s magazines.

“My 2½-year-old daughter, Angela, has a subscription to Sesame Street Magazine and loves it,” says Melissa Durante, a mother of two from Bartlett. “Having her very own magazine come each month to her in the mail is very exciting. She sits down immediately and looks through it.”

Other parents have noted similar positive experiences with Sports Illustrated for Kids, Ranger Rick, Your Big Backyard, American Girl, Nick Jr. Magazine and Zoobooks. (Be sure to check for age-appropriateness before subscribing.)

Change the tactic If reading starts to seem like work to you or your child, try introducing an element of play. Set up a “bookstore” where you are the customer and your child is the seller. Describe the type of book you would like to buy and have her recommend one. Read it aloud to see if it is what you want. Pay for the purchase with pretend money or return the book to the shelf and find another title.

Since children like to sort things they own, try having your son or daughter organize books into categories, such as animal books or alphabet books. Then, ask him or her to pick out the best book in each category for you to read aloud. Award the winning publications a small sticker.

Many books contain characters from popular children’s shows and videos. Give in to a bit of extra viewing time once in a while—with the understanding that it will be followed by reading stories about the same characters.

“Paulette Bourgeois’ Franklin stories, Norman Bridwell’s Clifford books and Stan and Jan Berenstain’s Berenstain Bears series are good publications that feature characters children already know from television and videos,” says Paulette Braccio of Matteson, an elementary school teacher for more than 30 years.

Another playful idea is to have a book swap with a friend. Let your child choose five books to loan to a buddy for a week in exchange for five of the friend’s books. Just as another child’s toys always seem more interesting, so may the books.  b

Beth B. Hering is a mom, writer and reader living in South Elgin.


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