Back to school bookworms: Local librarians teach how to get kids to read for school and fun

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Children now have class reading assignments, but that doesn’t mean that leisurely reading should go away. (Photo by thinkstock.com)

How do you get your kids to read for pleasure? Summer reading programs and endless free time may have helped you make some gains, but now they’re heading back to school and assigned reading is looming over them, sucking the fun out of books all together. What to do? What to do? Here’s some advice from local experts, Utah Valley children’s librarians and resident pros at getting kids to turn pages of their own free will.

Jeana Christofferson, Media Specialist at Freedom Elementary in Highland, 10 years

  • Read by example. Let your kids see you snatch reading moments. Make reading a priority in your daily activities. If you haven’t made reading a priority, join in with the Governor’s Commission on Literacy and read 20 minutes everyday with a child.
  • Readers can be choosers. Let kids choose their own books and encourage exploration of all different kinds of books. Let your kids read a book more than once if they want to.
  • Total saturation. Have books available everywhere. Carry a book or eReader wherever you go for reading emergencies. Give books as gifts. Take your kids to the library on a regular basis.
  • Go clubbin’. Encourage participation in book clubs, like America’s Battle of the Books. It’s always fun to be reading the same book as a friend.
  • Look to the best. Pay attention to books selected as the Newbery, Caldecott and other award winners. Children’s Literature Association of Utah or Beehive Book Award books are great for children to read. Children themselves select the winners.

Carla Morris, Children’s Services Manager at Provo City Library, 30 years

  • Page-turner or bust. It’s called the “page-turning dynamic.” A book needs to have that for all of us, even as adults. If you’re not enjoying the book after a few chapters, put it down. We have to give ourselves permission to do that.
  • Right book. Right time. Children really have to have the right book at the right time. Librarians and teachers can step in and make suggestions. Readers’ advisory — that’s what we do all day here at the library. We compile books by interest and age.
  • Aloud and proud. Reading aloud should start when your kids are young, but it’s never too late. There’s something magical about reading to your children aloud no matter how old they are. In this day and age, it’s hard to turn everything off and have your kids listen to you. Try making the most of the few minutes right before they fall asleep.

Sue Griggs, Children’s Librarian at Spanish Fork Library, 18 years

  • Embrace routine. The most success we’ve seen is when parents establish a regular time for their kids to read.
  • Listen up! If your kids don’t like the books they are assigned to read for school, try having them listen to the audio versions. Sometimes that can make all the difference.
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Samantha Strong Murphey is a lover of greenery, glitter and goat cheese, an advocate of media literacy, human rights and karaoke for all. She earned bachelor's degree in communications from Brigham Young University and is a former writer and editor at Utah Valley Magazine. Now, she works as a full-time freelance writer and blogger based in Atlanta, Georgia.

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