5. Don’t be a snob.
A literary snob that is. This blog contains the rules for getting your child to read. It is about the joy of reading. The idea of reading for pleasure: pure and unadulterated pleasure. Nothing irks me more than people who scoff at ‘popular’ reads and believe that the only ‘real’ books are those with great literary merit. It is true that in the realms of books and fiction, there is a vast difference in the quality of writing on offer. It would be ridiculous to compare wordsmiths like Howard Finkler or Tim Winton with Matthew Reilly or Janet Evanovich. But I don’t believe the Reillys or Evanovichs of the world expect or want to be compared with writers of great literature. Writers are story tellers. How they tell their story is irrelevant when we are talking about reading for pleasure. If we want to encourage children to read, then it doesn’t matter what they read. If they want to read popular fiction that you don’t think carries much literary merit, don’t worry. Let them read whatever they want. You will be surprised what the popular fiction will lead to.
I am a reader and read everything: great literature such as Booker prize winners to airport fiction, such as thrillers and what I refer to ‘three page chapter’ easy reads. It depends on the mood I am in. All books are worthwhile and valuable, and it doesn’t matter what book your child chooses to read – as long as it’s the right book.
You have to find the right book. It is fair to say that that J.K Rowling single handedly got more kids reading that the combined education authorities across the world. Why? Because Harry Potter was the right book. It grabbed kids, it was readable, it appealed to most tastes and it was a series – read one and you’re more likely to read the next. (It is no surprise that the majority of children’s and young adult novels being released these days are always part of a series, or franchise. This is where authors and publishers can hook a market and make some money). Stephenie Meyer’s Twilight series was also responsible for getting kids, especially girls reading, and Robert Muchamore’s Cherub series continues to hook many boys.
The point is that if you find the right book, your child will read it and probably continue to read other books. I’ve had so many parents tell me that the first book their child read was Harry Potter. Note that they say the first, because their child discovered the joy of reading and kept on doing it. But Harry Potter is not the only book to capture the imagination of young people. I know one Year 9 girl who had not read a book since primary school, and those books were thin, very easy to read volumes. Then Twilight became popular and she was determined to read it. She ploughed through it, going on to read the remaining books in the series. This was no easy feat, considering the last book in the series Breaking Dawn is a hefty tome of 754 pages. But this wasn’t the end of her achievement: she then went on to read another 80 books that year! Now, you will hear many people question the literary merit of Twilight, but I say any book that gets a girl reading 80 books in one year is a masterpiece!
It is not really all that difficult to find the right book. I always tell my students that if they have read a few chapters and they really, honestly can’t get into the book they should bring it back to me and I will find them another. I don’t want a child ploughing through a book they are not enjoying, as I believe it does more damage than good. Reading should be a pleasure. It should be something to look forward to. A good book should have you thinking about it when you’re not reading, anticipating the moment you and the book can be at one again, sharing the story.
If this means cashing in on trends such as Harry Potter and Twilight, then do it. Even if you prefer your child to be an individual and avoid peer pressure, reading should be exempt from this.
Movie tie-ins are another great way to entice kids to read. If a child has seen a movie and enjoyed it, they are familiar with the plot and characters which gives them a sense of comfort and confidence to tackle the book. Books contain much more detail than movies, so the book can be the icing on the cake after seeing the movie. Or the movie can be an inducement: “read the book and I’ll take you to see the movie”.
A recent example of a successful movie tie-in is I am number four. This book was purpose written as the first in a series of books which will become movies. The book is easy to read, with a great plot and lots of suspense. It doesn’t hurt that the leads in the movie are popular and good looking actors, who have been in other popular movies or television shows. I am number four has a high interest level for both boys and girls – most boys at my school have seen or heard of the movie. They love the book (there are 4 copies in the library which are always on loan or reserved) and one reluctant reader read it in one weekend. All the boys cannot wait for the next book.
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