Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Getting Your Child to Read Good Books

Wow, I'm just a font of unsolicited advice this morning, aren't I? (Who am I kidding? I'm always a font of unsolicited advice!)

My oldest daughter (age 7.5) has really changed in the last year.  At this time in 2010, getting her to struggle through an "I can read" book was pure torture.   She hated reading. It was slow. It was boring. It was a waste of time-- why should she have to groan through Green Eggs and Ham when I could read her Narnia?  

Less than 12 months later, she devours books.   She worries that she won't be able to give up TV for Lent this year, because she doesn't even really like TV anymore, except for Antique Roadshow.  She doesn't just read many books, she reads good  books.

So, how do we get her to read really good literature in addition to Choose Your Own Adventure and Magic Treehouse

It's actually pretty easy.  First of all, we ask for good books for Christmas, and we look for good books at library sales. (Last year my parents got us several Betsy-Tacy books.  I'd loved them as a kid, and my daughter loves them too.)  Then, I gave my daughter two "Big Girl" shelves of her own on one of the parental bookcases.   There are still low shelves filled with picture books for the younger kids, but she's the only kid who can easily browse the special shelves, and they're filled with books she likes.   I keep the shelves filled with a mix of classic children's literature and the goofier stuff (like the Choose Your Own adventures I mentioned earlier.  My husband apparently owns ALL of them, and a couple of D&D based ones as well.)   I don't have room for all the books we've accumulated for our kids, so I cycle through them.  Once a week, I move some of the ones that she's read and doesn't feel like rereading back to the tubs, and I replace them with a new mixture of books. 

I don't force "Good Literature" on her for its own sake-- I try to pick the books that suit her current interests or that I remember as being especially wonderful.  And I throw some I didn't like into the mix too, since she's not my clone.  (I hated Misty of Chincoteaque.  She adores it because she likes horses more than I did.)  

After she reads a book, she usually wants to talk about it, and we're working in one book report a month (August's was Homer Price, another of my childhood favorites)  She picks the book she wants to report on and fills in one of the forms from this site. 

I think the key to introducing your child to good literature is to like it yourself.   A good book has to be a treat, not a punishment.  And if your child is a reluctant reader (as my oldest was) and doesn't want to try harder books, read them to her.  If you pick books she enjoys hearing, eventually she'll start reading them too - if only because a chapter a day seems WAY TOO SLOW.


John said...

Delighted to hear it! I look forward to providing my goddaughter with good books in the future.

Rachel said...

Good news for Mimi and Poppy. Start to develop that Christmas book wish list now!