You may know me from my latest book, It’s Not Complicated, my classroom libraries or my work in schools as a literacy expert. I’m excited this year to be introducing a brand new library for classrooms -- the Phyllis C. Hunter Classroom Libraries: 2nd Edition for Grades K-5, packed with culturally responsive and relevant books, hand-picked by me.
One thing I know for sure is that reading well will always be necessary. I coined the phrase “Reading is the New Civil Right!” and that skill is more important than ever. These are my top ten ways to encourage reading both at school and at home, especially for those students caught in the achievement gap. Here are numbers 10-8.
I’d love to hear your ideas too. If you have other ways to encourage children to read more, please share in the comments!
#10: Let kids see the movie before they read the book.
It always used to be said that you should not see the movie until you’ve read the book. But for kids who you want to get reading, establishing background knowledge is important. You can do that with a movie. It’s true that if a child reads a book like Harry Potter before seeing the movie, the child is able to make his or her own visual, mental images of what it looks like in Hogwarts. But that’s only if he picks up the book and makes it through the 400 or more pages in each book. Seeing the movie might cement his interest and help him get through a long series. Books that have been adapted into movies range from The Hunger Games to Cinderella. If kids see the movie and then read the book, they’ll have something to hold on to.
Some more examples of books adapted into movies:
- Diary of a Wimpy Kid
- Hope for Winter (A Dolphin Tale)
- Winter’s Tale
#9: Encourage reading series books.
A good way to get kids to read – and this has been proven over and over again – is to have them read all the books in an author’s series, because then you’re getting a lot of bang for your buck. There’s a built-in appeal, because the reader will love to live with one book, and if he wants more, he may discover that all of these other books in the series are available too. There are all kinds of series for all kinds of readers, from Captain Underpants to 39 Clues and more.
Some more examples of series kids might enjoy:
- The Hunger Games
- Harry Potter
- The Baby-sitters Club
- The Magic School Bus
- Ruby and the Booker Boys
#8: Don’t just read stories. Read magazines, blogs, how-to guides, and graphic novels.
The perk of a magazine is its connection to the pleasure principle. Most people enjoy magazines because they don’t feel it’s a burden or a particularly long-term investment. I’m on planes a lot, and I see a lot of people at the magazine stand in the airport. In fact, I see a lot more people at the magazine stand than I see at the bookstore! And when people are buying magazines, they have smiles on their faces because it is something they're interested in, and something that they want. There are a number of children’s magazines that can appeal to anyone. If your kid likes chess, he or she can read about chess. And if he or she doesn’t like chess, maybe he or she should read that magazine anyway because an interest might be piqued. If your kid likes to play video games, there are gaming magazines.
Reading pamphlets or online content counts as reading too, and they’re given away for free all the time. It did me a world of good to have a parent tell me that she hadn’t considered reading on computer screens as actual reading until her child asked, “Why are people having buckets of ice dumped on their heads?” He didn’t understand what ALS was, so he went to the computer to look up ALS, to look up the “Ice Bucket Challenge,” and to learn as much as he could about the issue. All of that is reading. Kids should read blogs too – daily diaries or weekly diaries that people write about their experiences or information that is important to them.
Kids could also try community newspapers – most of which are free. So where do you find them? Check the coffee shop, or the library, or maybe they're even thrown to your front door. What they contain is news about local sports or the arts that your kids might be interested in, listings about events that are right around the corner, and content that helps them understand their town. A good thing to do would be to figure out what day the community newspaper comes out and make your kid responsible for letting you know interesting things that affect your family. So, it’s not always about buying the latest book for $15 or $18. It’s about taking advantage of what you have within your grasp. You can also move from local to national newspapers; if you don’t subscribe in print or online, go to the library and look at the Wall Street Journal, or make sure that your kids know what the New York Times or the Washington Post looks like, just to acquaint them with it so they understand what value newspapers will have in their lives.
Some kids like to read manuals. When you buy something new, no matter what it is, have your kids read the directions to you. Don’t worry if it’s above their reading level or below their reading level. That’s called “life reading.” That’s what people have to do in order to function in their lives – they have to read things. So, even if you yourself are not a reader, have your kids struggle through manuals that you have in your home, because it is good practice. Reading practice for 20 minutes a day is a good thing to do.
Next are how-to books. My mother used to say to me all the time, “You don’t know how to do something until you know how to explain it to someone else.” So, reading how-tos and about DIY projects is great practice for comprehension, vocabulary, and oral skills. When you’re cooking, have your child read the recipe. If you’re building something, have them read you the directions. Any kind of how-to guide is a good thing for kids to read. All of these things count as reading.
Be sure to check out the two other posts in this series: