I can remember the first time I realized how much I liked reading. I was in grade school happy as a lark checking out my fifth Nancy Drew mystery at the library. I couldn’t wait to get home. I was so excited to get it started. Looking back I can remember wanting to read them all and I still remember my two favorites, The Secret of the Old Clock and The Hidden Staircase. My mom who loved mysteries joined me in re-reading some of those old classics.
As time moved on I graduated to other books. I must have read The Black Stallion about five times and then in eighth grade I became obsessed with The Good-Bad Boy, a hilarious diary kept by a precocious adolescence who eventually became a priest. It was so popular that there was a waiting list for it in our one and only tiny school library.
As the years have gone by my love for books has not changed. I can’t remember a time when I was not reading something. My tastes have changed through the years and I can honestly say I have broadened my horizons and now enjoy a wide variety of books. Book clubs have been a great vehicle for introductions to genre’s I may never have selected for myself. I have also been open to friends’ suggestions, especially those who are avid readers. I feel fortunate too that I have passed on my love of reading to my children. Even as adolescences and young teens they spent a great deal of time reading and still do today.
So, where I am going with all of this. Well, with all the electronics that our children have access to today the pleasure of reading it appears has taken a back seat to all the fun and excitement that hand held electronics and standard gaming systems can give. Although these electronics are fun and can be played with friends and family, children are becoming addicted to them and prefer to play games over reading a good book. As moms, dads and grandparents we have some stiff competition. Although we want our kids and grandkids to have fun, perhaps there can be a compromise. Below I have listed some ideas to get our kids’ reading again and hope they’ll work for you.
1. Start early. We all know how important reading is to babies and preschoolers. As they grow we have to continue encouraging books, but take it a little further. As your children or grandchildren begin to mature make library trips a priority. Weekly or bi-weekly trips can be fun and something to look forward to while keeping track of books to read and return teaches them responsibility. If financially feasible, a trip to a local bookstore can be fun too. Choosing a book to purchase and keep helps children make decisions about what they really want to read. This is also where relatives can get involved indirectly. Gift cards to books stores make perfect gifts for children on birthdays and Christmas. Like most children, gift cards are greatly appreciated as they get to pick the gift themselves.
2. Make electronics something they have to earn. Like an allowance given for doing chores, electronic time can be earned through reading. For example, for every 30 minutes reading, 30 minutes is earned for the gaming system of their choice. Some may say this will only teach them to dread reading, but I disagree. This gives them the best of both worlds. Otherwise, and I have seen it, they can easily spend hours on electronic devices without even realizing it and books are collecting dust under their beds or in the corners of their rooms. Sometimes as parents and grandparents we have to be the bad guy and say “NO”! No more electronics, use your brain for something else!!
Remember too, kids love challenges and rewards. For every 5 books they read a trip to the store or ice cream shop of choice can be won. It doesn’t have to be anything expensive. Kids love Dollar stores as much as adults and who doesn’t like an ice cream cone or sundae. Whatever the treat may be make it special and something everyone can enjoy. Short on cash, then allow your child to pick the activity the family will participate in that day. A game of cards, a favorite board game or baking their favorite cookie works too. It’s your time and attention they want anyway. Just be creative.
3. If your children have a regularly scheduled bedtime, bump it up by 30 minutes and allow them to read in bed. Some kids like to take their hand held electronics to bed, but this can often stimulate their minds instead of relaxing them. Reading can help them calm after a busy day and take them away to places where they have to use their imagination. It also gives them something to look forward to again the next night, especially if it’s a chapter book. If your children are still young and have difficulty reading without assistance this is a perfect time to spend the last 30 minutes of their day together. Assisting them with reading not only makes them a better reader, but allows you some quiet time together in an otherwise hectic day.
4. Whenever possible, let your children or grandchildren see their favorite books come to life. Diary of a Wimpy Kid, James and The Giant Peach, The Hobbit, Little Women, The Polar Express, The Chronicles of Narnia and the Cat in the Hat are just a few wonderful books that have been made into films. Just Like adults, children like to see their favorite characters jump off the page and entertain them on a screen larger than life.
5. If a parent or grandparent has trouble getting a child to read a book and it becomes a battle, find out what they are passionate about. If your child likes sports, there are many children’s books about sports. Perhaps your child likes animals, dolls, or if you’re lucky they may be interested in history, Again countless books have been written on all of these subjects. If none of these hold interest for your child or grandchild, how about a comic book or magazine. I collected Betty and Veronica, Jughead and Archie in grade school for years. I devoured those comic books and couldn’t wait for the next ones to hit the stand. The most important thing to remember is we want them to enjoy reading. If we make reading a chore instead of a reward we defeat our purpose.
Well I hope that some of these ideas to encourage your children or grandchildren to read has been helpful. We all want our children to succeed and becoming good readers is one way to start them on their way. Reading will educate them and help them to self-entertain especially when they are bored. More importantly it gives them a great alternative to endless hours of electronic activity. Reading will open them up to different worlds and allow them to develop a creative imagination. Reading is also something the whole family can share. In a busy world with all the activities that compete with their time, books are a way of slowing down and sharing with siblings and the whole family. It’s never too late to encourage your children and grandchildren to become avid readers. Why not start today!
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