How To Encourage Children to Read by Expanding their Reading Repertoire
Because it’s important to read widely!
When my son was one, I went out jogging and almost tripped over a big box of books on the sidewalk. There was a ‘free’ sign taped to the lid. So, I opened up the box and peered inside. It was full of Hardy Boys mysteries. I got excited. As a child, I was a huge Nancy Drew fan. Suddenly, I had visions of the future, of my son snuggled in bed with a Hardy Boys book in his hand. I was determined to get that box of books home.
Struggling to lift the heavy box, I half-dragged and half-carried it all the way home. When our family moved overseas to the UK, the box of Hardy Boys books came with us. Five years later, when we returned to the U.S., the Hardy Boys mysteries came, too. I patiently waited for the day my son was old enough to read them. Shortly after his ninth birthday, I pulled out The Clue of the Broken Blade and presented it to my son as our next ‘before bed’ reading book.
“No!” he protested. “I don’t want to read that book.”
My son had set himself against the Hardy Boys without even giving them a chance. Maybe the book looked too old-fashioned. Maybe the illustration on the front cover wasn’t as exciting as the monsters featured on the covers of the Beast Quest series. Whatever the reason, my son didn’t want to read the book. I was disappointed, but determined to find a way to incorporate the Hardy Boys into our bedtime routine.
Sometimes, our kids need us to persist when we know something is good for them. My challenge was to find a way to encourage my son to try a new book series. It was time to expand his reading horizons and take him beyond his book comfort zone. If I could do this, he would be a better, more versatile reader.
The Importance of Patience and Perseverance
“The skill I was learning was a crucial one, the patience to read things I could not yet understand.” — Tara Westover, Educated
In today’s world of constant stimulation, it’s important to teach our children to persevere when reading a book that seems too boring or challenging to complete. Some of my favorite books started slow. Once I read a few chapters, I couldn’t put them down. I wanted to teach my son the value of expanding his reading repertoire.
“Neuroscientists have discovered that reading a novel can improve brain function on a variety of levels.” In a recent study on the brain benefits of reading fiction at Emory University, “researchers found that becoming engrossed in a novel enhances connectivity in the brain and improves brain function.” Furthermore, reading fiction improves the reader’s ability to relate to characters and put themselves in other people’s shoes, not only figuratively, but biologically as well.
Reading a variety of books would help my son develop empathy and enhance brain connectivity.
“Sharing lots of different kinds, or genres, of books with your young reader exposes him to different words, different pictures, and whole new worlds.” — Reading Rockets, The Importance of Reading Widely
Our children will read for a variety of purposes as they grow. They may need to research how to make home repairs online or read and understand the news to make informed decisions. It’s important to help kids develop the patience to read things that may not be as fun as Dogman, but may be critical to everyday life.
I wanted to teach my son to persevere and read a book he didn’t want to read. I knew this would expand his reading horizons, help him develop new vocabulary, and be open to more book genres. I had to handle the situation delicately so I wouldn’t turn him off completely.
How to Encourage Kids to Expand Their Reading Horizons
If your child is resistant to reading or starting a new book series, here are some ways you can encourage them without forcing it.
Issue a Challenge
When we visited my parents one weekend, there weren’t any chapter book options for our bedtime story. I challenged my son to listen to the first five chapters of The Clue of the Broken Blade. I told him he could decide whether we would continue with the story when we reached the fifth chapter. By offering him a choice, he didn’t feel like I was forcing him to do something he didn’t want to do.
Offer a Psychological Incentive
I carefully chose my timing when I introduced the Hardy Boys for the second time. My son had already had his own reading time before bed. I offered to let him stay up an extra 15 minutes to read The Clue of the Broken Blade with me. Since my son never wants to go to bed, he was happy with this compromise because it allowed him to stay up later.
Offer your child a small concession when you want to get them to do something they don’t want to do. When a child feels like he/she is getting away with something you don’t normally allow, they feel victorious (even though you are still reading a book they didn’t choose). This will put a child in a more receptive frame of mind for the story.
Choose the Right Book
I had the entire Hardy Boys series to choose from when I selected the book for my son’s first mystery reading experience. I decided not to go with the first book in the series. Often, writers are finding their feet in the first book. In my experience, the first book is never the best or most exciting book.
I examined all the Hardy Boys books and chose one with an exciting illustration on the cover. It showed two teenagers fencing and a large, broken sword. Since my son loves video games, I thought an illustration with a weapon would appeal to him more than many of the other front cover pictures. I also read the blurb on the back to make sure the book sounded exciting enough for him. Finally, I skimmed the first few chapters to make sure the action started right away. These were going to be the crucial deciding chapters. If my son liked them, I hoped he would want to finish the book.
When we reached the fifth chapter on our fifth night of reading, I didn’t say a word. I just picked up the book again the next night to continue. My son didn’t complain. He was into it. I finished the book and he looked through all the titles to choose the next one to read from the series. He was hooked. Now, we have read six Hardy Boys books together.
I’m going to let my son carry on with the Hardy Boys books by himself now. I’ve already suggested we start the Book Scavenger series he got for his birthday and he has said “no”. It’s back to the drawing board, but I will find a way!
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