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How to help your child pick an engaging book

For many of us parents out there, there is an often repeated struggle with our children to get them to read. The biggest complaint my son used to make when he was school-aged was that he couldn’t find a book that interested him. Of course I had so many books at home available to him, but he rejected almost all of my suggestions. Does this sound familiar to you?

One crucial piece of helping your child is to involve him in the book selection process. Let him be a more active part of the search. To start, talk with your child about books and reading. Ask him what books he’s read that he’s really liked. Make a list of those to bring with you to the local library or bookstore where employees are trained to make thoughtful suggestions based on just this type of list. Another helpful exercise is to help your child list his interests. For almost any possible interest, there are great books about that very subject, often in both non-fiction and fiction forms.

Does your child prefer movies over books? There are plenty of movies out there that are either based on a book or have novelizations made after the movie comes out. This can be a particularly useful idea for a struggling reader since she will already be familiar with the characters and main plot of the story. There are also several books out based on television series and video games that may be of interest to your child.

Another tip I can give you is to try to get your child interested in series books. Once my son grasped on to the Hardy Boys series I felt a great sense of relief because I knew that there were over a hundred books in the series. That kept him busy reading, well over a year. There are so many great series books available at all reading levels. Another variation of this is to help your child find a favourite author, hopefully one who has written several books.

So let’s say your child has picked up a handful of books from the library or bookstore. Now what? Even with the best of intentions, it’s possible that some of those books won’t prove interesting to your child. While it’s important to give each book a fair chance, I think it’s also reasonable to allow your child to abandon a book that she’s not enjoying. Remember, you want your child to love to read, so forcing her to trudge through a book that she doesn’t like is going against your main objective. If she’s still not interested in it after a chapter or two, tell her it’s okay to take a break from it. Hopefully she’s picked enough other books that she will find one that will interest her.

For my son, he had a hard time getting into any book and therefore tried to abandon most of them. One trick I learned that helped was that I offered to read the first chapter or two to him. That way he was able to enter into the world of this book without being responsible at first for the direct reading. I found that if I got him started on something, he was more likely to show interest and stick with the book than if I left him to do it all on his own. My daughter was a more willing reader, but I found that she engaged more with a book when she was able to talk to someone else about it. So in her case I would get two copies of the book from the library so that I could read one on my own and then we could discuss it and I could answer any questions or concerns that she had.

Yes, it takes work to help most of our children to find books that will interest them. But it is certainly time well spent. Good luck!

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