Every trick in the book: Five ways to inspire your children to read

Paula Sirois

Beside the proud and vocal parent who shares how great of a reader her child is (so much so that she can barely keep up with the insatiable demand for books, books, books) is the regular mom who cringes as she considers how her kid not only doesn’t read but hates reading and even struggles with it.

If that’s your kid, here are a few ideas that may help stimulate some interest and a little reading this summer:

1. One word at a time: “Make a summer word wall,” suggests Dr. Jane Bailey, dean of the School of Education for Post University in Waterbury, Conn. Put the word wall up “in your child’s room or the kitchen or wherever it will be regularly seen. Each evening, have your child write three or four ‘summer words’ from the day’s new experience. Each word can be written on an index card with a child’s illustration of it. Put up a giant bulletin board or simply tape a large sheet of paper to the wall and then pin or tape the new words to the background. Before bedtime, review the words and play with grouping them in fun ways. After you’ve had several experiences, you’ll have all kinds of words. Can you put all the animal words together? Place words? Feeling words? Can you find similar words?”

2. Put books aside: “They can read lots of other things besides books,” said Brenda Zofrea, an author and educator. “Make reading fun! Create scavenger hunts.” Have them “read your directions, give them a local map and have them direct you on errands using the map.” You can also ask your child to read cookbooks and create his or her very own recipe. “If the child needs to read a book over the summer for school, after they’ve read it, try to get it on video. Then do a compare/contrast book vs. video version.” Or you can let your child pick out a book of interest, then ask him to write a different ending. Zofrea reminds us that “there is so much you can do to make reading fun once you realize it’s not just all about sitting still and reading.”

3. Family affair: Host a family (or neighborhood) book club. Carol Frazey of Fit School Inc. suggests having each family member select a book of his or her choice. “Set a date two weeks from that day and plan to meet for your first Family Book Club. At the book club meeting, give each family member 5 or 10 minutes to talk about the book he or she read. What did she like about it? What did she not like about the book? Would she read another book by the same author? Family members can then ask questions and learn more about each other’s interests.”

4. Story quest: StorySeeking.com is a website that combines adventure with reading. Basically your kid logs onto the site, picks a local park and story to read and starts reading. At the end of the first chapter he is given clues and prompted to find a hidden cache in that park. (Depending on his age, you’ll probably want to accompany him or have him go as part of a group.) Similar to geocaching, readers use their smartphone (or tablet computer) and use GoogleMaps to help find the hidden treasure. The cache holds the secret password to the next chapter in the story. Jon Krone, creator of the site, notes that kids “keep reading the chapters and following the maps to the hidden passwords until the quest is completed. Before you know it, your child has read a complete story and enjoyed a great adventure as well.”

5. Gone to the dogs. Many libraries now offer the opportunity to read to canines. Reading to dogs can be motivating, calming and help build confidence. Children can read aloud to the dogs, which naturally act as a great, nonjudgmental and attentive audience. Kids can practice reading and the dogs get a few pets in return. Find out more at http://www.therapyanimals.org/R.E.A.D.html