Tips for Hooking Kids on Reading

My 11 year old has been reading Shakespeare for about a year. She’s 7 plays into his cannon.

When she visits me in Chicago, she doesn’t want to go to the zoo, or to ride the ferris wheel at Navy Pier. She doesn’t even want to go see Hillary Duff live. She wants to visit some of Frank Lloyd Wright’s houses and examine the architecture. Then go to the Steppenwolf theatre to see a production of “The Diary of Anne Frank” because she just finished reading the book. She is obsessed with literature about the Holocaust.

So, I know what you are thinking: that’s great, his daughter is smart and all that, but she probably doesn’t have many social graces. Probably sits around in the house during the summertime and reads while her friends are out building forts. Not true. My daughter is very well rounded. In fact, they have an accelerated reading program, that is reward based, through her school. If she reads books from their list and takes a brief test, she receives points, which go towards gifts and certificates at the end of the year. My daughter reads many books that aren’t even on the list – just because she wants to read them (ie. “The Diary of Anne Frank” and “Romeo and Juliet”) Yet she’s in a rock band, just ran a junior marathon, plays on a softball team and takes acting lessons. All of it sparked by the love of reading. How did this come about? I will tell you.

Exposure to culture. From the earliest age, I not only read to my daughter (not baby books), but I also took her to concerts (everything for Dave Matthews to the local symphony), plays (even if she couldn’t understand them fully yet), gourmet food and social events. My daughter, while not becoming stuck up or withdrawn, began to “push out” her passions – based on what she was experiencing – into reading and writing. (As soon as I had taught it to her) Sure, reading has to be something that a child wants to do, and there are many theories about making the process fun. But if you expose your child to all forms of fine art and you are consistent, they will not be able to help themselves when they pick up that first book. It will become a love affair. For them and for you.