Inspiring Your Kids To Read
by Rick Nau
As a writer of children’s literature I have a vested interest in encouraging kids to read. The more I can do to steer them to the world of books, the better. That’s a difficult task these days, given the competition that comes from movies, video games, social media, texting and what all.
This isn’t to say that anything’s really changed. When I was a kid I wasn’t interested in reading. It seemed that every book I encountered was dull and boring. Dogs were running about and children were combing their hair, but neither the dogs nor the children were going anywhere.
Then we moved to an island in the tropics, thousands of miles from the nearest continent. Our house had no air conditioning, so everything electrical was a feast for the wet, salty air. After a month the television expired in a shower of sparks. A while later the record player went haywire. All that was left with speakers in it was a small battery-powered radio that only worked late at night, when it was able to pick up a Japanese station 2000 miles away.
And so I turned to books. At night, when I was supposed to be sleeping, I’d leave the closet door ajar (the closet had a burning lightbulb near the floor to dry out the air and keep the mold off my shoes), turn on a fan to drive off the mosquitos, and enter new worlds, magical worlds, romantic worlds far away from a tiny little island lost in the tropics . . . .
Which brings me back to the topic–how to inspire your kids to read? First off, you’ve got to get the magic yourself. You’ve got to pop open a few books, read them from cover to cover (aloha Pinterest, au revoir Facebook, auf Wiedersehen Twitter, hasta la vista Instagram–for a while, anyway), and let your imagination be swept away like it was when you were a kid. (In my case I’m rereading The Chronicles Of Narnia. Right now I'm up to The Silver Chair and having a blast.) Once you’ve regained that sense of excitement, that urge to venture into the boundless realm of the imagination, you’re ready to inspire your kids.
Now it’s time to find something you can all read together, something that will grab your kids’ attention. It may be a story about a ballerina or a baseball player or someone who can walk on air while wearing special stilts. It may be a book about cats or bugs or lonely kids without any friends. It may be overflowing with difficult words or simple words or no words at all (avoid this one, unless you want to make up the story yourself). It may be filled with pictures, or there may be no pictures at all. Whatever it may be, work with your kids until you find just the right book.
On to the last part, the magical part. Make reading together a fun event, like going to the movies or celebrating a special occasion. Whip up some popcorn or hot chocolate or lemonade, find a nice place in the house or on the porch or in the yard, and read the book aloud together. Take your time, enjoy it, just for the sake of being with your kids. Be patient. If they massacre some of the words (which they will), help them to say and understand them. If they can’t visualize what the writer is saying, help bring the words to life for them. Whatever you do, make it fun, something they will look forward to the next time. Remember, what they want more than any book in the world is being with you. And later, once they have left the nest, once they are curled up with a good book, they will think of those happy times with you.