How to get your kids excited about reading

Some people absolutely adore reading. They take books with them on vacation, read when on the bus or waiting in line and always have a dog-eared paperback on them wherever they go. For others, the sports section of ESPN’s website is about it. If your kids fall into this latter group, you might be terrified you are raising a brood of barely literate fools. It’s never that dramatic of course. But reading is a crucial life skill. People who make it a constant in their lives almost always have a clear understanding of current events, a well-rounded group of interests, strong public speaking skills and a massive vocabulary. You don’t need your darling child to win Jeopardy or anything like that. But perhaps you’d feel better if they read a book by choice every once in a while instead of hunting for the Cliff’s Notes. So here are a couple of pointers to help your kids get excited about reading.

It all starts in childhood, by making reading a daily activity. Parents have been sharing stories with their children since the beginning of human communication, using songs and tales to explain the natural world, deepen family pride and hand down the details of history. So make sure you take the time to read with your child on a nightly basis. It takes a little effort on your part, but it will highlight how important reading is in your mind. It will also hopefully help your child’s imagination expand, and perhaps create their own passion for reading.

As your kids age they want opportunities like this less and less, so you’re going to have to look for different ways to connect. And sometimes pop culture can be your best asset. Comic books may not be high art, but they are a fantastic way to get your kids reading. Make sure you check out these comics in advance, to make sure the subject matter is appropriate for their age group. But a good graphic novel can be a real work of art. Check out graphic novel versions of some classic works, to make them a bit more appealing to a child who doesn’t much like reading.

Teenagers are particularly choosy about reading. First of all, they are often forced to read books in school, and for many kids that completely takes the fun out of it. But they’re also really concerned with how others perceive them, and risking being declared a ‘nerd’ may discourage them from ever carrying around a book. So turn to movies to help bridge the gap. Look for good films that are based on books. See the movie together, and then turn them on to the novels. And they don’t have to be high art by any means. HBO’s “Game of Thrones” series draws millions of viewers every single week, but the books it is based upon are even more popular.

College kids often try to get away with the bare minimum of reading. They start each semester hunting down cheap used textbooks for college on, then spend the rest of the time trying their best to read them as infrequently as possible. So look for quality media focused on current events. College is when many kids develop some sort of social or political ideal, so reading opinion pieces in well-respected periodicals may grab their attention more easily than some dusty old classic. Send them links to big news stories, and look out for essays or commentaries that deepen your understanding. Perhaps if you can get them involved in a debate they will be motivated to read. If not to improve themselves, at least they’ll be able to argue with you. And that might well be a college kid’s favorite pastime.


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