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Book Geek, Episode 2: This One is For Parents of “Reluctant” Readers

October 4th, 2009 · 5 Comments · Author! Author!, Book Geek, Podcasts, Weekly theme

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“American children and adolescents spend 22 to 28 hours per week viewing television, more than any other activity except sleeping. By the age of 70 they will have spent 7 to 10 years of their lives watching TV.”
— The Kaiser Family Foundation

Seven to ten years. I have a 7-year-old at my house and a 10-year-old, coincidentally. So that statistic really hits home for me. A few parents every week ask me, “How do I get my kid to read?” This is sometimes followed by, She hates reading, or he doesn’t seem to find anything that interests him or “I am tired of fighting about this one.” Parents sometimes confide in me that they find children’s books “boring.”

Well. If the book is boring you, it might be boring your child, too. So lively things up. My own kids are rebellious, and perhaps since their mother is a bibliophile they do not always want to take my suggestions. Therefore I have one child who adores dinosaur encylopedias and anything disgusting about snakes, worms, bugs and reptiles, and one who loves creepy books that I steer clear of.

We’ve found a compromise in Harry Potter, which we all three love. Jim Dale’s recordings of the books are fantastic — his voices are just right. They’ve read the books, watched the movies and are now “listening” their way through the series.

I suggest the usual: find books that are at their level and, if they’re already reading, encourage them to read aloud to you. Encourage them to find a quiet corner and read to themselves. Find books that are too hard for them to read alone and read aloud together. Find books that are too easy for them and encourage them to read to their younger siblings, the dog, the cat, the neighbor kids… whoever you can find.

The littlest readers love the classics, “Where the Wild Things Are,” Robert McCloskey’s “Make Way for Ducklings” and “Blueberries for Sal,” any and all Dr. Seuss, Clifford, and the David series and the pirate books by David Shannon. Ian Falconer, who writes the Olivia series, is one of the most popular authors in my library. Once they’re a little bigger, they like Beverly Cleary, the Magic Tree House and the Magic School Bus series, easy reader non-fiction (anything about animals, especially big scary ones and little, cute, cuddly ones). Older students love Melissa Lion, Blake Nelson, Sherman Alexie, Mark Twain, Judy Blume — pretty much any book that hints of controversy.

I can say this on the Internet, but I find it difficult to say face-to-face: Kill your television. Log off the computer. Say buh-bye to Facebook. Hang up the telephone. Celebrate TV Turn-Off Week. It’s ironic, isn’t it, that I’m blogging and podcasting this? OK, turn it off.

To put it another way: “What they see is what they’ll be.”

So… read. Read your own books, read magazines, read newspapers, read aloud to your friends and family, read and your kids will probably read, too.

Probably. There are no guarantees in life, people. I do not give this advice because I am better than you, oh no. I give this advice because I am much worse than you. I love television, movies and Facebook, and they consume too much of my time, and my family’s. But we can always try harder, yes? Yes.

Happy reading to you!


1. Volunteer in a school to teach reading, math, computer skills.
2. Learn to play the guitar or other musical instrument.
3. Attend community concerts.
4. Organize a community clean-up.
5. Put together a puzzle.
6. Visit the library. Borrow a book. Attend library activities.
7. Go ice skating or roller skating.
8. Listen to the radio.
9. Visit the zoo.
10. Paint a picture, a mural or a room.


Ms. Nancy

5 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Nan // Oct 5, 2009 at 12:00 am

    My older boys have just discovered the “Alex Rider” books by Anthony Horowitz. Seems to be a sort of fourteen year old James Bond? The boys are COMPLETELY GLUED to these books.

    And, we have no TV. It’s not impossible!!! Try!

  • 2 Kristin // Oct 5, 2009 at 1:53 pm

    We’ve been obsessed with the Sticky Burr series…so great. It’s a graphic novel about a Burr who is a hero. The pics are great to attract my 4 year old who is resisting the notion of learning how to read…

  • 3 Ms. Nancy // Oct 5, 2009 at 2:23 pm

    Nan, excellent. I’ve heard that Horowitz is great.

    Kristin, I’ll add that series to my list, and the Horowitz books from Nan. Thank you both for stopping by.

  • 4 Max Elliot Anderson // Oct 6, 2009 at 4:54 am

    It’s so important to draw attention to reading, and attract reluctant readers to it,especially boys. In fact, I’ve recently completed a feature magazine article on this subject that came out in October, “Help for Struggling, Reluctant Readers.”

    I grew up as a reluctant reader, in spite of the fact that my father published over 70 books. Now I write action-adventures & mysteries, especially for tween boys, that avid boy readers and girls enjoy just as much.

    My blog, Books for Boys is dedicated to drawing attention to the importance of reading.

    Keep up your good work.

    Max Elliot Anderson

  • 5 Ms. Nancy // Oct 6, 2009 at 6:09 am

    Mr. Anderson, thank you for stopping by.