We live in a time of rapid technological expansion. The downside to this is that despite advice from pediatricians to limit screen time for young children, some kids are regularly absorbed in screen-based devices. That bothers me because I believe young children need real-life play, as well as lots of fresh air and exercise. And I know they need to listen to stories, share books, sing, chant and chat with caregivers who love them. So how can we help our kids find great books?
Preschoolers will prize a library card, a magical ticket to the kingdom of reading. Parents and caregivers are not only conferring access to great books with a card of their own, but giving their children the right to make choices about books. While I always advocate for children to choose what THEY want to read, I believe parents need to be aware of any media their kids are involved in. It's a fine balancing act between being concerned and being over-protective, as is generally the case with being a parent!
Take time to help kids become familiar with any library. Show them all the resources available-- magazines, movies, non-fiction books, picture books, chapter books, poetry, audio books and e-books. Older kids can learn to use the catalogue and search via authors and titles they know, but as any book lover will explain, it's also lots of fun to browse. If you're fortunate enough to have a children's librarian, rejoice and use this wonderful resource to help your kids find new and exciting books.
Once a young child picks up a book, help him or her to explore it. Show children the cover, the blurb on the back, illustrations (if any) and suggest you read a little of the beginning together. Skimming chapter headings in a fiction book, or subheadings in a non-fiction book, can also work as a quick way to get some idea of a book.
Once kids are in elementary school and above, it makes sense to help them have access to digital books if that's how they prefer to read. Print books are wonderful but there are times and reasons that make eBooks a good choice. Since I've been taking eBooks on holidays, no more excess baggage charges for all my books!
Suggest your children ask their friends for recommendations. Maybe kids could arrange a book swap party or begin their own neighborhood book club as a way of finding new and interesting reading material. Organizing events like these is a fantastic way for kids to develop entrepreneurial skills they will need in real life.
Another excellent idea is to look out for things like Top Ten Lists. Very popular books often have a huge fan base, and that sort of enthusiasm can kindle a corresponding desire to read in our own children. Help your kids find books that correspond to their enthusiasms too -- for instance, kids who love Minecraft will tend to also love Minecraft books.
Websites like What Should I Read Next? can be really useful. Type in the title or author you want, and the site generates a list of suggestions. Scholastic's Book Wizard allows us to search via author, title or keyword. Some children like to use book trailers on sites like Youtube to help them find great books too. These video clips act like teasers for a book, giving kids its flavor and telling them just enough about it to make them seek it out. Using a search engine to search for a book title may also bring an excerpt of a book, allowing young readers to see if it suits.
Know of an opportunity for you and your kids to meet an author or illustrator in real life? Grab it! Helping kids make contact with the creative teams behind loved books further cements the connection they feel with it. It's also another chance for children to discover new books written by that author. If your kids have sporting heroes and you get the chance, ask those heroes to recommend books they loved as kids.
If we want our kids to become enthusiastic readers -- and who doesn't! -- it makes good sense to do all we can to help them access books that will engage their hearts, their minds and quite often their funny bones.
Did you found this article helpful? You might also like to read Let's Make Wide Reading Part of Family Life.
How do you help your children find great books? Let us know on the Scholastic Parents Facebook page.