by Fiona Ingram, a South African writer who loves books, travel, animals, antiques, and adventures of all kinds! Read Fiona’s author site and find out about her recently published children’s adventure novel
Getting kids enthusiastic about reading may seem like a monumental task when you see all the techno-competition around—video games, movies, computer games etc. Actually, one can use all sort of elements to get kids as enthusiastic about books as they are about all their other gadgets.
Most of the time, children are either bored or switched off by the reading choices at school. Kids are riveted by what interests them, so find out what captures your child’s imagination, and direct their attention toward the books on that subject/s.
Kids love computers so turn the idea of reading around—let them create their own story, become an author. What could be more empowering! This will allow them ‘ownership’ of the story, and that’s an irresistible challenge for any child. The subject can be about them, an incident, or a fictitious character. They’ll not just create it but illustrate it (either their own drawings or using images available from the Internet), design it and print it out. You’ll be amazed at what happens once the child takes charge of their own project. You can help your child develop the story, getting them to write it out first by hand, and then going through it several times (maybe another family member can also give their input). They can then create the project on the computer. When it’s finished, suggest the child hand it in to their grade teacher for inclusion in the school magazine or newspaper. Or perhaps it’s a gift for a grandparent or family member. You could even have it properly bound at your local stationers.
Praise and success are incredibly motivating factors in any child’s development. They’ll automatically feel inspired to achieve more. Now you can introduce new activities that show books in a very novel light.
Find a book you both like and, besides reading together, ask your child to suggest alternative actions on the part of certain characters, asking if they agree on how the story is unfolding, and how they would have written the characters’ actions if they disagree. Encouraging a thought process will make your child feel their opinion counts. Once the book is finished, have your child write a ‘review’ and even send it to your local bookshop or library. Imagine their pride and delight if the review is published in a local newspaper, or put up on the library notice board.
A book series is a wonderful way to capture a child’s imagination. If they ‘bond’ with a character such as a young hero/ine, they’ll be eager to continue reading the series as each new book comes out. Two of the most popular that spring to mind immediately are Chronicles of Narnia and Harry Potter. You can cement this enthusiasm by buying hard cover books for your child as ‘collectibles’—something to be cherished and read again and again. If there’s a movie, even better, and merchandising such as T-shirts, mugs, badges etc, also keep the enthusiasm going.
Following on with the above, most successful books have websites with interesting aspects to explore. Is the series set in a real or fantasy place? Do the characters have important choices to make? Don’t be afraid to let your child get onto the computer and read all about the series, the author, the movie, the actors, the settings, and the characters. Ask your child questions about what they have learned and praise their research.
It doesn’t matter how your child comes to enjoy the written word, but that he or she does. Some imaginative ways of ‘packaging’ the reading process will reap wonderful results.