Reading Rule 4

4. Redefine “book”.

Parents want their kids to read, but many parents also think that the only form of ‘legitimate’ reading is a print book. If you want your child to be a reader it is important to redefine your concept of what constitutes a ‘book’.

A book is many things. It is the traditional novel with which most of us are familiar, but it is also information (or non-fiction) books, graphic novels, ebooks and audio books.

Many children, particularly boys, find the idea of reading an entire novel quite overwhelming. But give them an information book on their favourite subject (surfing, basketball, motor cars or cooking) and they will happily sit and read. This form of reading encompasses more browsing and reading short passages of information, and is therefore different to reading a novel. However, it is still a form of sustained reading which will engage the reader.

One of the most popular non-fiction books with the boys in my library is the Guinness Book of Records. Some teachers are unhappy with the boys choosing this book in their private reading time, but I vigorously defend this. In my experience, many reluctant readers find the Guinness Book of Records non-confronting, as it has small passages of information accompanied by numerous illustrations. It also has a high interest level. Boys will sit, engaged, with this book for a sustained period of time. Job done. And who knows what further reading this will lead to? The most important reason to get kids reading is to develop their ability to engage in sustained periods of reading and reflection, which will ultimately develop their critical literacy skills.

Another way to encourage reading is to entice your child with Graphic Novels. You may be more familiar with the idea of ‘comic books’ from your childhood, but the Graphic Novels of today are a little more sophisticated that the comic books of our youth. They are indeed novels, with a full plot, narrative structure and character development. Graphic Novels deal with all topics, from superheros to the holocaust. There are also Graphic Novel adaptions of the many of the classics: Shakespeare, Dickens and Austen for example.  More importantly, to the reluctant reader, a Graphic Novel may not appear as daunting as a traditional novel. They appeal especially to visual learners, with some Graphic Novels even having no text at all. Graphic Novels are certainly not the easy way out, with time and thought necessary to read the images and text. Graphic Novels are a legitimate form of reading, and will often lead on to bigger and better things, such as reading entire novels. Many popular fiction novels such as the Young Bond series and Artemis Fowl series are now being adapted into Graphic Novels. This is a great development for reluctant readers. They can read the Graphic Novel and then, similar to watching a movie adaptation of a book, they may yearn for more detail and read the novel.

If your child is a typical screenager, another way to encourage reading is through ebooks. Many ebooks for younger children are interactive, offering high interest level for pre-schoolers, and ebooks for teenagers may appeal simply because they are read on a screen. Similarly, audio books are an option for the extremely reluctant reader. Whilst listening to an audio book does not bring any of the traditional benefits associated with reading the printed word, listening to an audio book and becoming familiar with the plot and characters may be an entry into reading a traditional book, making the idea of reading a book in its entirety less daunting.

By redefining the concept of book, you are providing more options for your child. Reading anything, even newspapers and magazines is important and to be encouraged. As a teacher and librarian my mantra has always been “I don’t care what they read, as long as they are reading”. I know this to be true: reading ebooks, magazines, information books or graphic novels invariably leads on to bigger and better things.

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