We all know that getting our kids to read for pleasure is very important. But it can be a challenge to entice your twins to pick up a book during the lazy days of summer. After all, didn’t they just spend ten months stuck in a classroom? I’m sure you’ve heard the tips before—surround your children with books at home, model good behavior by reading more often yourself, take regular trips to the library. Blah, blah, blah. All great ideas but if you have a reluctant reader like I did, those suggestions just don’t cut it. But reading is important. (Duh!) A strong reader is more successful in school as every subject involves reading. But what can you do if your child flat out refuses to pick up a book? Here are a few, fresh ideas that are sure to make a bookworm even out of the most hesitant reader.
See the Movie First
Popular wisdom says that you should read the book before you go to see the movie. But why not turn that argument on its head and see the movie first? If the film is done well (think The Hunger Games or Harry Potter) it’s sure to create excitement and curiosity for the book. Besides, it’s easier for a struggling reader to follow the plot and characters in a book once he has a visual from the movie in his head.
When my son was in fourth grade, he was hooked on Garfield comic books. At first, I disapproved wanting him to read “real fiction,” but then it hit me—he was reading and not watching TV or bugging me to get on the computer. So I left him alone. Eventually he moved on to other books and I didn’t even have to nag!
And please, don’t try to “challenge” your twins with books that are above their reading level as that often backfires. As an elementary school librarian for the past three years, I see this all too often from well-meaning parents. When you choose a book that is completely above their comprehension, kids tune out convincing themselves that reading is “dumb” and not for them. Instead, try to keep the overarching goal in mind—to instill a lifelong love of reading.
So instead of pushing the classics on your kids, step back and allow them to read what they want. I guarantee that they will surprise you. Without pushback from you, they will naturally begin to challenge themselves when they are ready. Remember, it’s not the quality the counts at this point but rather the quantity! The more books they read, the better! So comic books, magazines, graphic novels, sports almanacs, whatever. If it has words, it counts as reading.
Entice Them With Banned Books
What school kid would pass up the opportunity to read something so taboo that it was banned from a library? Roald Dahl’s James and the Giant Peach, William Steig’s Sylvester and the Magic Pebble, S. E. Hinton’s The Outsiders, and even, Dav Pilkey’s much-beloved Captain Underpants series—all absolutely great books, and all have been banned from libraries or schools somewhere in the United States at some point. But there are dozens more! Just Google, “banned children’s books” for a complete list.
You can even make reading banned books into a game by creating a “Banned Book” reading chart and awarding a star for each book read. Or, see how long it takes for your twins to find the naughty word or words in the banned books. (What kid wouldn’t love to find the word “ass” in the banned book, James and the Giant Peach?) And the conversations you can have discussing why the book was banned and if it was warranted—pure gold!
Try Different Genres of Books
Most kids refuse to read simply because they can’t find something they like. They need your help in introducing them to books that fit their interests. Ghost stories, autobiographies, mysteries, fantasy, even non-fiction books—expose them to all types of genres until you find one (or two) that inspires your twins and ignites their imaginations.
Designate Family Reading Time
Set aside thirty minutes every evening where everyone in the household stops what they’re doing to sit down to read together. (My reluctant reader willingly gave in to his book if I would snuggle with him on the couch.) One rule, however: no distractions. Turn the cellphones off; put the computers to sleep and just sit and read. Make it fun by having a special reading snack that comes out only when the books do. (Freshly popped popcorn, perhaps?)
Or, read aloud to your twins. One mom I know reads to her children when she knows she has a captive audience, like when the kids are eating dinner or in the bathtub.
Let Them Use Technology to Read
There are parents out there who believe that a child should read a book in its paper form rather than having him read on an electronic device such as an e-reader. But why? Both forms have words, sentences and paragraphs. Furthermore, kids today are wired. That’s how they roll. Don’t fight it; just make sure your kids are reading an ebook rather than checking in with Facebook!
Start a Kids’ Book Club
Gather a small group of your twins’ friends and form a monthly book club. Have your kids pick the first book and instruct all participants to think up one question to discuss at the club meeting. Plan a themed play date to follow a 30-minute kid-lead discussion.