TIPS TO HELP YOUR CHILD ENJOY READING
In today’s world of Instagram, YouTube and video games, it can be hard to get kids interested in books.
But for some — like Margaret Zendzian — reading sparks the imagination in a way that technology doesn’t.
The 14-year-old Bluffton student has always loved reading. When she’s not playing tennis or practicing her violin, Margaret can often be found curled up with a book.
From the last day of school to the first week of July, she read the entire “Maze Runner” series, as well as “Dividing Eden,” “Carve the Mark,” “Relative Strangers” and “This Mortal Coil.”
“I like to read because every single person has a different perspective on the world,” Margaret said. “When you read someone else's work, it opens up new perspectives for you. ... Your own thoughts can be changed with reading just one book. It can open up new worlds.”
So why is Margaret so excited about reading when other kids fight their parents tooth and nail to avoid sitting down with a book? Perhaps it’s the fact that her parents, David and Dana Zendzian, are avid readers. Or maybe it’s all the hours her parents have spent reading to her and her two brothers over the years.
Dana Zendzian regularly took her children to the library for story time when they were little. These story hours are still available; check with the Hilton Head Island or Bluffton branches of the Beaufort County Library for events that might spark your child’s interest in the world of books.
“My biggest tip for getting kids excited about reading is helping them find something that interests them,” said Kelli Baxter, youth services manager at the Bluffton library. “If a child’s passion is sports, then find some books about sports. If a child really loves adventures, help them find books about adventures. I truly believe that those who say they do not like reading just haven’t found the book that calls to them yet.”
If your child is having a hard time choosing a book, just ask the librarian for suggestions. And don’t be afraid to try a variety of genres: Baxter said she tells kids they shouldn’t force themselves to finish a book if they aren’t enjoying it.
“It is OK to put the book down and try something different,” she said.
River Ridge Academy literacy intervention teacher Amber Blakes said it’s important to find books that are not too difficult and not too easy for kids to read. Children who have a difficult time reading might need to re-read books. Teachers can help parents find books that are appropriate for their children’s individual reading levels.
Blakes said parents can also have their children read aloud to determine if a book is appropriate for them. She said the book is a good fit if the child reads it with minimal mistakes, understands what he or she is reading, and shows interest in the story.
Children who struggle with reading also need to be read to so they can hear the flow of the words, Blakes said. Parents can even encourage children to write their own stories so they can see themselves as authors.
Students who have trouble staying focused can start out by reading for five minutes at a time, and build up from there, Blakes said. They can also read with a purpose. For example, they can take notes as they read, writing down the names of characters, the facts they learn, the words they don't know, the questions they have and the parts that make them laugh. She said sticky notes and journals are great for this.
Blakes suggested that children read for 20-40 minutes a day, but she said it really depends on each individual child’s needs.
It’s important to instill a routine with reading to help those who struggle with it, Baxter said, but she also discourages parents from making it seem like work.
“For me, reading should be viewed as something enjoyable rather than a chore,” Baxter said. “If children are forced to read a certain amount of time or a certain number of pages, etc., they may begin to feel reading is more of a chore and lose interest.”
However, Baxter said, “The more you read, the better you will get at it.”