Bug and Mr. Man have become exactly the kind of readers I wanted them to be. Growing up, I loved books. I remember spending a long Sunday afternoon in my room reading all the American Girls books, or enjoying The Phantom Tollbooth for the umpteenth time.
I really want the boys to read like that. I want them to crave books. I want them to be able to escape to imaginary worlds, and bond with the best characters literature can offer. I do want them to read for information, sure, a whole bunch of our school time is spent with their noses in school books, but mostly, I want them to read for the love of reading.
Getting boys to read isn’t always the easiest thing. They are easily distracted, and in today’s world of flashing and beeping and instant gratification, it’s hard to get anyone to settle down for a moment, let alone get a wiggily boy to sit down with a book.
It’s National Reading Month so now is a good time as ever to get your child going with books, but how do you get your kids to read for fun?
1. Give them choices
Do you remember being a kid, and walking into the book store? When I was about nine, I remember my grandparents coming to visit. They took my sisters and I to this beautiful, multistory book store in downtown Denver, and just let us explore. I was allowed to pick anything I want, and I feel like I spent hours going up and down the shelves looking for the perfect book.
There was no pressure to choose, and no restrictions on what I grabbed. It was just me, and thousands of colorful book covers just begging me to read them.
These days, books stores are in short supply. There are options, like the library, or if you have one, a Kindle e-reader. With Amazon FreeTime Unlimited on the e-reader, Bug is able to access a ton of children’s books, everything from classics, to silly stories based on his favorite movies. FreeTime has hundreds of chapter books, early readers, and even some graphic novels to choose from.
When he opens up his Kindle, he can explore thousands of books, and even search by character until he sees a cover that appeals to him. If he starts reading a book he doesn’t like, he can stop, and move on to the next book. Because I don’t pay by the book (the FreeTime Unlimited subscription is only 2.99 a month) I don’t mind if he doesn’t finish want he started.
Freedom of choice means he can read what he wants to read, when he wants to read it!
2. Let them be bored
Bug is eight, and he’s easily distracted by all things flashy, noisy, and electronic. When I handed him the Kindle e-reader, there wasn’t any videos or flashy games to distract him from the important task of reading. There was just books (thousands and thousands of them), right at his fingertips, waiting to be enjoyed.
Even if you don’t have an e-reader (because you know I love paper books as well!) boredom is a wonderful tool to get your child to read. If there is no TV playing, if the toys are put up, if there is a stack of books, or a Kindle with thousands of titles sitting right there, they are going to read.
When we head out of the house, I bring along the Kindle. Waiting for classes, riding in the car, or sitting while I feed the baby leads to lots of “bored” time, and lots of time to become immersed in a story.
Stories are infinitely more fun than sitting in silence while Momma nurses the baby for the 3rd time today.
3. Give them a helping hand
One of the things that has prevented my kids from reading for fun in the early years is that they struggle with the vocabulary of bigger words. With the Kindle e-reader, the kids have an easy to use dictionary right there along with their books. If a word doesn’t make sense, they can press on it, and a kid-friendly definition will pop up.
Bug is currently using the basic Kindle e-reader (which retails for 79 dollars) but when he was younger, we invested in the Kindle Fire, which boasts a few extra bells and whistles. One of the features of the Fire is the ability to play the Audible audio book at the same time as the Kindle book is read, and the text will highlight, so your child can easily follow along.
This feature is gold for new readers, because it removes the stumbling blocks of struggling to sound out complicated words, or read with a natural flow. I can’t tell you enough how valuable this feature is for young readers. Now that Bug is older, he doesn’t need this feature any more (and I prefer the simplicity, and the lack of video distractions on the e-reader) but it was an amazing tool while we needed it.
4. Reward them
I don’t know if this is true of all kids, but my kids will do anything if you dangle a carrort in front of them. Any reward system works. We’ve used sticker charts to track reading, or check off boxes on our daily to-do lists.
Kindle e-reader with FreeTime Unlimited has a wonderful built in reward system. On Bug’s Kindle, there are “reader badges” he can earn for things like finishing a book, reading for an hour, or reading every day for a week. Bug has been working diligently to earn as many badges as he can!
I do also use screen time as a reward for reading time. The FreeTime subscription we use on the Kindle can also be accessed on the Fire on on the TV with the Fire Stick, so we can watch movies and play games as a reward for the time he has spent with his books.
I was selected for this opportunity as a member of Clever Girls and the content and opinions expressed here are all my own.