You hear it all the time: “Kids spend too much time watching T.V. or playing video games.” “Kids these days don’t read.” Or, if the kid does happen to read, it’s “They won’t read real books, only comic books.”
Well, I call bull. Kids these days are reading, and they’re reading a lot. According to Scholastic’s 2017 “Kids and Family Reading Report,” 86% of kids ages 6 to 17 are currently reading or have just finished reading a book for fun.
Even so, some parents would still like to see their kid read more. So how can you help your child to read more often?
Based on my research and my experience as a readers, here are some ways to help your middle grader read more.
Set time in the family activity schedule for reading, for everyone.
Most families I know have a family calendar. It usually includes work hours for parents who work shift work, sports activities, family outings, dinner plans, doctor’s appointments, and the like. Encourage your kids to read more, by putting in the calendar.
Tuesday evenings from 7 pm to 8 pm is Family Reading Time.
Treat it like any other appointment or activity in the calendar. Make it happen every week, the whole family finds a comfy place in the living room, each person cracks open the book of their choice, and everyone reads for the next thirty minutes or hour.
Not only does putting in the calendar make it a priority, but by everyone participating – and by that I mean the parents too – you’re setting a great example for you kids. Your kids are much more likely to read for fun when they see you reading for fun. By also reading during family reading time, modelling the behaviour and the enjoyment of it, you’re showing your kid that reading is a lifelong enjoyment and not just something they have to do because they’re a kid. If parents are frequent readers, kids are much more likely to be frequent readers.
If you have little ones in the family too, a fun idea to make sure the whole family is involved in weekly reading time is to spend half of the hour reading a book out loud (even middle graders enjoy listening to a book being read to them!) and then giving the little ones board books or picture books to look at while everyone else reads their own books silently.
While I already read a lot, my husband doesn’t read as much as he’d like. We’re considering making our own adult version of this by putting a weekly coffee shop date in our calendar where we go sit in a coffee shop together with our books for a few hours. We may even put our phones on airplane mode so we can’t be distracted by them and social media.
Let your middle grader pick out the books they want to read
I get it. We all opinions on which books are good and which are bad. But that doesn’t mean all our opinions are the same. You might have a list in your head of books you think your child should read. But guess what? Your list doesn’t matter.
Remember in school when you were forced to read To Kill a Mockingbird or Hamlet. And you hated it. Remember?
That’s the feeling your middle grader gets every time you try to force a book on them.
Kids prefer books they get to pick out. A whopping 94% of kids said their favourite books are the ones they picked out themselves. The same survey (Scholastic) showed that what kids want most out of stories are that they make them laugh. Take a minute to think about the books you’ve suggested to your middle grader… are they fun or funny?
Two more notes on this point:
- If your kid prefers comic books or graphic novels to chapter books – cool! Reading is reading is reading. If and when they decide they want to read more prose, there are a lot of novelizations of those characters that might be a good jumping off point for them.
- There is no such thing as boy books or girl books. If your kid thinks a book looks interesting and it’s coded by silly gender stereotypes, let your kid read it anyway. Kids don’t usually care if a book cover is pink or a story is about a character of a different gender. They only start caring about it when adults tell them to. It’s actually fantastic for kids to read about kids who are different than them.
Give your middle grader lots of opportunities to pick out books
Now that you’ve got a scheduled reading time and you’re letting your middle grader pick out their own books, they need opportunities to pick them out. Weekly library visits or monthly bookstore shopping dates are fun ways to get in family time and explore the multitude of books out there to choose from.
While I know books can get expensive (boy, do I know), having books in the home positively impacts children’s attitudes toward books and reading. And, while libraries are awesome and wonderful, owning their books can also help kids feel more connected to them and, in the case of book series, read more books faster because they don’t have to wait for library holds to become available and can pick them back up to reread any time they’re interested. Also, if you’re able to afford it, spending money on books your middle grader chooses for themselves, helps them see that you value books…and that you value the books they value.
So there you go, almost a thousand words on helping your middle grader read more. It really all boils down to letting them pick the books that interest them (even when you think the book looks ridiculous) and giving them access to books and opportunities to read.