The issue of children and reading is always a hot topic among parents, a source of pride for some and a chafing point for others. For some moms, like myself, it can be a huge challenge to figure out how to get their sons interested in reading. In a world that offers twenty four hours of cartoons a day, an almost infinite array of video games via the internet, and the constant pull of Legos and neighborhood friends, it seems like a boy can always find something he’d rather do than read. At least mine can.
As a girl who grew up devouring every book I could lay my hands on, my son’s reticence to pick one up is extremely frustrating, especially when I know he loves stories. If he had his druthers, I would be reading to him or he would have books playing on his iPod every day. So why the apathy when it comes to actually picking up a book and diving in?
The best selling author, James Patterson, has a lot of ideas on the subject and, in a recent CNN op-ed, offers some great common-sense advice to parents on getting their child to be a “reading fanatic.”
While Patterson may not have all the answers, he certainly has some great ideas– and as the recipient of the Children’s Book Councils’ Children’s Choice Book Awards “Author of the Year” award in 2010, he is more than qualified to offer some some words of wisdom on the topic.
Patterson starts his article by reminding parents that it is THEIR job to turn their children into readers, not their children’s schools. And that the “simple but powerful truth” that parents and teachers fail to act on is that, “The more kids read, the better readers they become.” And the trick to getting kids to read more is giving them choices. He notes that the number one reason kids say they don’t want to read is because “they can’t find books they like.” Give them the freedom of choice and they will get excited and motivated.
This advice is especially relevant with boys, who are often told by teachers and parents that their comic books or copy of the “Guinness Book of World Records” aren’t “real books.” Patterson warns that not praising boys for their reading choices, no matter how far off the recommended reading lists an adult may deem them, is a tragic and avoidable mistake. He asks adults to make boys feel great about their reading choices, because that translates into making the boys feel great about reading.
I’m not proud to admit it, but I have been guilty of chiding my eldest boy’s reading choices (The Simpsons comic books! *fret worry fret*) and trying to get him to read traditional fiction books that *I* thought he should love. At twelve, he is still a reluctant reader and while I decided over two years ago that I would just be happy if he read anything and have praised him accordingly when he did, I can’t help but feel guilty about my interference when he was younger. I can only continue to encourage him and know that, with two younger sons in the wings, it is not a mistake I will repeat.
James Patterson recommends the site GuysRead.com as a great resource for finding general-information books for boys. He also recommends these sites for excellent book ideas: ReadKiddoRead, Oprah.com’s Kids’ Reading Lists, and The American Library Association. In addition, he encourages parents to take advantage of Scholastic Books, school book fairs, FirstBook.org, and ReaderToReader.org, all great places to find quality low-cost books.
James Patterson is the author of “Middle School: The Worst Years of My Life” is a NY Times No. 1 best seller, as well as “Maximum Ride,” “Daniel X,” and the “Witch & Wizard” young adult series. He also created the website, “Read Kiddo Read,” to help parents find great books for their children to read.
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