In today’s digital world, it seems so rare that we can get our kids to sit down and read. In fact, 75% of parents with kids ages 6-17 agree: “I wish my child would read more books for fun!” The problem is that many children don’t feel engaged with what they are reading. Luckily, there are a few ways to get young readers to dive into each story and engage with reading like never before.
- Take some time to unplug.
It was much easier to encourage kids to read before cell phones, computers and online gaming were in the picture, but that doesn’t mean it’s impossible. Set aside some time each day or each week to put away your electronic devices as a family and read together. If your child likes video games with wizards and castles, try reading a fantasy book together, making connections with the game as you read.
- Start Small.
Your child probably won’t become an avid reader overnight, like most things it takes time. Start with just a few pages each night. Leave a cliffhanger that will have them coming back for more if you can. Add more pages gradually as you make reading part of your routine. Eventually, reading an entire book won’t feel like such a daunting task.
- Keep Trying.
When looking for children’s books to read, both kids and parents “just want a good story,” and many of them want books that will make them laugh.
If you find that your child isn’t engaging with a particular book or genre, try another one. Use it as a teachable moment to explain that sometimes it takes a few tries to find a good book that you can dive into, even as an adult. But when you find the one you can’t put down, it’s even more special, so don’t give up.
- Ask what their friends are reading.
One of the best parts of reading a book is sharing the details with your friends. Talk to other parents in your child’s class and find out what they’re reading at home. Let your child know their classmate has read it too and they can talk about it at school.
- Incentivize it.
Find out if your child’s school or the local library has any incentive programs for reading. If you can’t find a program in your area, create one at home. Set a goal to read a certain number of books per month and a grand prize for reaching that goal (a movie night, ice cream after school, etc.). Kids are likely to feel more engaged if there is a competition or a prize to look forward to.
- Find ways to encourage storytelling through daily activities.
The inspiration for my first series, Colton’s Pocket Dragon came from my grandson who was always antsy in the car. In an effort to keep him entertained one day, we decided to make up a story about a little dragon who followed him everywhere. With every road trip, Colton would tell us about all the new adventures he and his dragon would go on.
You’ll be surprised how far your child’s imagination can take you. Whether you’re driving through a long stretch of mountains or making a quick trip to the car wash, start the story with a few ideas and let your little one’s imagination run wild. It’s also a great way to help time pass for them while you’re trying to run errands.
- Ask Questions.
Colton and his dragon’s first adventure started simply asking my grandson a few questions. What kind of animal do you like? “A dragon that breathes fire!” What should his name be? “Kolta – like my name.”
Whether you’re making up your own story or reading a book, stop to ask your kids what they think will happen next. It’s a great way for them to engage with characters they already know and love and to use their imagination.
- Write it down.
Many kids love to draw and write. Give them blank paper to continue the story of a book they recently read. If your little one is too young to write, have them draw pictures while you write down their words. Once they finish, you can tie the pages together for a keepsake you’ll cherish. Plus, who knows? Maybe you’re holding onto the first edition of a future best-seller.
Rebecca Massey is the author of the Colton’s Pocket Dragon and Colton’s Time Machine series