How to Help Kids Fall in Love with Reading: A Manifesto

By Laura Raphael, Children's Services Coordinator, Tulsa City-County Library

"My kid knows HOW to read; she just doesn't do it, no matter what we do."

"My students don't see the value of reading books!"

"All my son wants to do is play video games. Reading for pleasure? We have a hard enough time getting him to come to the dinner table!"

If you can identify with any of these statements (or the sentiment behind them), don't panic! You have more power than you think you do in helping your school-aged children or students see reading as a highly pleasurable activity - and, eventually, identifying themselves as readers.

Here are 5 "Kids Read" principles, based on both research and experience, that should help you help children "get" why reading is as worthy (and even more so) than playing Fort Nite...

1. "There is no such thing as a child who hates to read. There are only children who have not found the right book." - Frank Serafini

This is a long-held core principle of librarianship. (It's even a Law in our land! "Every reader his book; every book its reader." S.R. Ranganathan's 5 Laws of Library Science.) More than that, we bet you can identify someone you know for whom this was true. "I hated reading until I discovered 'X'" - X being Harry Potter, books about snakes, or the Little House books. 

If you're having a hard time finding that "right book" for a kid, please ask your friendly librarian! We love going on the hunt for the perfect book to awaken a child's interest and discover that reading can meet needs that even video games don't offer.

2. When you give children an unlimited access to books, their interest in reading will rise.

Reams of research show that the more access to more books kids have, the more they will be interested in reading.

And guess where you can find nearly UNLIMITED books? That's right - at the library! 

3. Free choice in reading is also key. Kids who choose what they read are more likely to become independent readers.

Humans are creatures who cherish our right to choose - what to eat, what to wear, where to go. Children are no different, though they rarely get much choice in many of the daily details of their lives.

Being able to choose what they read (with your guidance) is a game-changer for independent reading. When kids choose their own books, they are far more likely to read, and the more they read, the more likely they will continue to read.

4. Books should have some meaning or relevance to a child.

This is related to free choice in that kids who choose what to read are more likely to find books that mean something to them - that tell them more about a subject they are curious about, or take them on an adventure that they enjoy.

5. Share what YOU are reading!

You may think your influence is waning, but caring adults and their opinions are always important to children (even if they're not showing it openly). When you talk about what you're reading, what you're learning from books, and the questions that reading has brought up, CHILDREN WILL LISTEN. 

Not only that, when you literally share what you are reading by reading together - either as a bedtime ritual (yes, school-aged children still want you to read to them!) or listening to books together in the car - you have a common experience to talk about.

One great way to practice all of these principles is to participate in the library's Summer Reading Program - the whole family! Check out more information at www.TulsaLibrary.org/Summer or visit any of our 24 library locations.

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