This post is in a series of posts called 5 Ways to Help Your Child Become a Better Reader. Of all the posts in the series, this is the most critical. Giving your child a steady diet of delightful fiction and nonfiction is one of the best things you can do as a parent. Fortunately, providing good books doesn’t have to be expensive. The library is free, many Kindle titles and other online books are free, and friends’ books are free to borrow.
Book Choice Warnings
Before I share 6 ways to find books your child will enjoy, I want to give you a couple pieces of advice about book choice. First, remember that your child may have much different tastes than you did as a child. Insisting that your child read specific titles you loved isn’t the best way to encourage independent reading. I will share more about this in a future post, but for now, allow your child the right of refusal for books that are to be read for pleasure.
My second piece of advice is to treat books like you would movies or video games: research them before buying them or checking them out for your child. I’m not suggesting you read every book before your child. I have never had time for that! But when it comes to titles you’re not familiar with, it’s good practice to review them. I have been absolutely horrified by the content of some children’s and teen’s books I’ve looked over lately. Unfortunately, in an effort to get kids reading, some publishers have been giving kids what they think they want, rather than what is best. Book awards and five-star reviews are no guarantee that a title is appropriate for your child. A quick way to avoid serving your child the equivalent of “junk food” in a book is to read the 1-star reviews on Amazon. These reviews are usually by parents who will give you the objectionable content, so you can make an informed decision.
6 Ways to Find Books Your Child Will Enjoy
1. Search for titles similar to those your child has enjoyed.
Whether your child read a book himself or enjoyed one you read aloud, you now have a key to finding more great titles. Here’s how.
Find titles with Amazon
Enter a book title into Amazon’s search and scrolling down a bit will pull up a list of books customers have also purchased. My boys have all been crazy about Calvin & Hobbes. Checking the other books customers purchased for this title includes more Calvin & Hobbes titles as expected. But continuing to click the right arrow gives me these suggestions to consider.
Find Titles Through Your Library’s Catalog
I searched for Charlotte’s Web through my library’s online catalog and got these recommendations with a reason why each title was selected.
Find Titles with Read Kiddo Read
While the database isn’t nearly as broad as Amazon’s, Read Kiddo Read also suggests titles based on books your child loves. Here are more recommendations based on Charlotte’s Web.
2. Search for books by movies your child has loved or wants to see.
Even if you don’t enjoy reading the book after you watch the movie, your child might! Did your child love the Minions movie? Maybe that was just me. 🙂 Look at this cute junior novel to entice your young reader.
Is a new movie coming out that your child is dying to see? Get the book and have him read it before seeing the movie.
3. Search by age / grade level and gender.
Find titles with Amazon
These were the top two results on Amazon books for 2nd grade boys. Note the 5-star reviews! Books in series are an excellent choice. If your child likes one, he will want to read the rest.
Find titles with Goodreads
The same search on Goodreads produced two lists that others are voting on, giving you even more social proof.
Find titles with Pinterest
Searching for 2nd grade boys’ books produces individual pins like this one as well as boards on the topic that are worth checking out.
I have a Reading Ideas board where I share book lists that may be helpful, too.
Follow Dr. Melanie Wilson @psychowith6’s board Reading Ideas on Pinterest.
Find titles with Reference Books
There are a number of books that recommend titles for your child by age and sometimes by gender.
3. Search by topic
What does your child spend the most time doing or talking about? Think your child spends way too much time watching TV and playing video games? There are books about these topics too! Check out these titles from a search for Minecraft, for example:
Use the Guys Read Site to Find Books on Topics Boys Will Love
I love that the Guys Read website makes reading seem macho. 🙂 Go over the topic list with your son. Anything sound interesting? This is just a sample.
Find Books with Get Epic
Epic is a free reading website (and app) for educators (the company is open to homeschoolers gaining access) that asks about your child’s interests and then makes book suggestions. The beauty of this website (besides the fact that there are audio books supporting text) is that kids can check out many titles quickly. Here’s a sample of recommended titles:
4. Find Titles That Meet Kids’ Needs
Kids, like adults, are motivated to read for the information they need. Are you taking a trip? Give your child a book on your destination and ask them to decide what they would like to see most. Are you expecting a new baby? Try a book on babies or being a big sister. Would your child like to earn some extra money? Find a book on businesses for kids or on the skills they will need to develop for that business. Would your child like a pet? Suggest a book on the care of that pet before you bring it home.
Does your child find reading difficult? There are books that address that need too! Check out the list on Reading Rockets. This is a sample:
5. Ask Your Child’s Friends for Their Favorites
This is my favorite tip. If your child has a friend who loves to read, ask him for his favorite titles in front of your child. Ask him why he likes those books and ask if you could borrow them, if he owns them. Having boys (in particular) share their love for books is really powerful. But my daughter has loved sharing books with her friend, too.
6. Spend Time at the Library
Your local librarian knows what books are popular with kids and should be able to recommend titles based on your child’s interests. Many libraries put award-winning books in prominent locations. Check this site for 2015 award winners. Just remember my warning from above!
But even without asking for help, your child is bound to find something of interest to her if you spend enough time around the books (and not at the computer station). Whether you just let your child peruse the children’s section until something catches his eye or you participate in a scheduled book talk, the library is the perfect place to find great books.
It’s important to note that audio books are books, too. They build vocabulary and aid word recognition in printed books. Ask your librarian how to access audiobooks online if they they have them available.
Do you have any other tips for helping your children find books they would enjoy? Please share them.
You know it’s important for your child’s future to have him read as much as possible. But what should you do if your child is a reluctant reader?
As a busy family who has made it top priority to raise six readers, we have discovered a few ways to encourage reading that can work for you.
#1 Create a reading environment
Research on academic achievement suggests that students who experience the biggest declines over summer break have the fewest books at home. Unfortunately, these declines tend to persist even once school has resumed.
What we can learn from this (even if you’re a homeschooler like I am) is that it’s important to have a generous variety of books in your home. Fortunately, that shouldn’t break the budget. Between libraries in your community, church, and home and lots of free digital titles, you should be able to create a rich reading environment.
Once you have the books, make sure you create spaces that invite reading–even if that’s your child’s bedroom. Make sure the lighting is adequate and furnishings are comfortable. Consider creating a reading nook for kids, too. Find some great ideas here:
#2 Find the right books
You are your kids’ most important librarian. When you invest the time to find titles that your child will enjoy, you will reap the rewards of having an avid reader.
Get advice on popular titles, especially those in a series. When you get your child hooked on a book in a series, most of your work is over. He will want to keep reading and then it’s fairly easy to find other series he would enjoy. Start by getting advice from parents whose kids are avid readers, look for top kids’ titles on Amazon, and check out book lists on Pinterest. One thing I’ve learned is that even if I really like a book, my child may not. I have to find something that really gets him excited.
The right books have to be at the right reading level for your child. To get kids reading more, choose books that are below their reading level. If the books seem easy, reading will seem effortless and fun. Save the challenging reading for school time. One tip for determining if it’s the right level is to have your child read one page of the book to you while holding up five fingers. If she comes to a word she doesn’t know, have her put one finger down. If she finishes a page with at least one finger up, it’s an okay book for her. However, if your child says it’s too hard, listen. If your child is really excited to read a book that is pretty challenging, absolutely let her give it a try.
Search for books from Capstone Publishing. Their titles are specifically designed to be high interest and lower reading level. Most libraries carry them.
#3 Buy an eReader
I’m a big believer in having all the reading formats available to a child. Printed books still form the majority of books kids read.
However, kids appreciate the novelty of digital books and some of their unique features, including: being able to get books instantly, being able to look up words at a touch, having an estimate of how long it will take them to read a book, and the ability to listen to a title while looking at the words.
These advantages have made our one Kindle Fire very popular around here.
#4 Sign up for a reading incentive program or create your own
I agree with the critics of reading incentive programs that reading is a reward in itself. But when it comes to unmotivated readers, I have no problem rewarding reading if that’s what it takes. There are many reading incentive programs to try. Check with your school or homeschool support group for information about enrolling.
It’s also easy to create your own reading incentives. My husband likes to promise the kids a shake for reading a certain number of books. Whenever he starts this program, the reading gets intense around here! Reading Rewards is a website you can use to create your own program.
#5 Allow reading in lieu of other activities
My kids have to read as well as complete math, science, and other language arts assignments. Reading is always what they choose to do first.
Give your kids alternatives that encourage reading. Ask them to complete a dull worksheet or read; require either reading or an extra chore. With time, reading will be viewed as the pleasurable activity it is.
#6 Read yourself
Make sure your kids see you reading or hear you talk about it. I do most of my reading when the kids are in bed, so I frequently talk with them about what I read. They know I am not asking them to value something that I don’t.
Encourage your spouse to model reading, too. My husband reads the Bible and the news at breakfast, reads for pleasure in the evenings, and recommends titles to the kids that he has read or heard about from the librarians he calls on. If your spouse doesn’t have the time to model reading, ask him to talk about what he’s been reading with the kids.
#7 Listen to audio books
Audio books count as reading! For auditory learners, those who have reading challenges like dyslexia, and those who can’t stand to sit still for long periods, this is a blessing.
It’s easy to get more reading time in by listening to books in the car and at bedtime. If you have a bluetooth-enabled device, the kids can even listen to books in the tub or shower using this speaker.
You can also have audio book family time when you’re not traveling, where you listen to engaging titles like these.
#8 Make time for online reading
Young kids shouldn’t be reading online unsupervised. The problem with that is that it requires your time. That means the best way to make it happen is to schedule it.
Make fun, online reading part of your school schedule. I reserve Friday mornings for more of an unschooling approach where we can study things we’re interested in. It’s a perfect time to not only watch YouTube videos, but to find safe websites on the subjects of interest. If you don’t homeschool, schedule some time for this after school or on weekends. Try these research sites recommended to school librarians.
#9 Find purposeful nonfiction
Kids will read when they really want or need the information. What is your child into? Find a book, magazine, or website that provides information on that topic. For example, this website on Minecraft tips may be just the ticket for your game lovers. Sometimes, even an instruction manual can end up fascinating a reluctant learner. Game manuals, Lego instructions, and cookbooks encourage reading, too.
#10 Read out loud
Just like audio books, books that you read to your child count as reading. Many kids who aren’t yet fluent readers appreciate the speed and accuracy of a parent’s reading. Have your child sit next to you as you read for even more skill building.
Have fun with the reading. Kids love it when you use different voices and dramatize fiction books and you are making positive associations with reading in the process.
#11 Have kids read to you
Even excellent readers need plenty of practice reading out loud. Practice helps prevent anxiety over reading in public, improves fluency, and teaches correct pronunciation. My kids have often been silently mispronouncing words as they read. Reading out loud gives me a chance to correct mistakes. One tip: let your kids choose the book they read to you. Yes, it will probably be No, David! one more time, but your child will be saying yes to reading.
#12 Have kids read to younger children
Having kids read to younger siblings or other kids offers the same benefits as reading to you, with the added benefits of building a child’s confidence and encouraging story telling. Even if kids are reading books for kids much younger, the time counts as reading. And that makes all the difference.
Try these tips and your kids will be spending more time reading and maybe you will be, too!
Be sure to follow my Pinterest Reading Ideas board for more tips and check out iHomeschool Network’s Ideas for Real Life Learning.
Follow Dr. Melanie Wilson @psychowith6’s board Reading Ideas on Pinterest.