Reading is my favorite hobby, and one that I wanted my sons to appreciate and enjoy, but there have been times when other hobbies (*ahem* video games) took over and I wanted to bring them back to the simple enjoyment of a good book. Lots of good books. Every day, taking a break to sit and enjoy time with one of the many great books around our home. So, I thought back to what I did when I first wanted to encourage my children to read in their early elementary years, and started again to create a book culture in our home again, where a love of literature is planted and cultivated. Here are some of our favorite ways to make our home friendly for growing bibliophiles:
5 Ways to Encourage Children Reading
1. Create a Cozy Space
Luckily, we have a lot of great seating space in our home, with throw pillows and throw blankets, so I added baskets next to the softest, most inviting sofas (and inside each bedroom, right next to the bed) and filled them with some of the best books. I added both classics for middle school reading, more frivolous and super fun graphic novels and comics and silly books, and a lot of information, reference type books for children with lots of pictures and interesting information, such as How Stuff Works, and books about sea creatures or dogs or horses. I stocked these spaced with note pads and pencils and book lights too, incase someone finds themself reading later at night, and I’ve been finding my sons sometimes lounging in one of these spots, casually perusing or deeply reading one of the books close at hand.
The main thing I kept out of these reading spaces is electronics- no iPads, laptops, etc.
2. Provide Lots of Easy Reading Material
I remember reading on the “Read Aloud Revival” blog that light or fluff reading encourages fluency in reading (this means they can read more quickly while still understanding what they are reading). I’ll go a step further and say that light reading for fun does more than encourage fluency- it also just encourages a general love for reading that naturally evolves to more mature literature, because no one stays at the same reading level forever (even if a favorite comic book is super funny and re-readable). A good tip is to provide a lot of easy reading materials to develop reading fluency, and this can include serial books about babysitters or teen detectives or magicians or whatever your kids find engaging… this can be the bulk of their home reading until they (on their own) start to reach for more sophisticated stories and books. For school, children are usually assigned books on their reading level (so having a dictionary in the home is a good idea too) and if they are great books, they can be reread so that children understand them on a deeper level with each reading, as well as reinforcing new vocabulary and quality language. Since we are raising readers, this shouldn’t be required (let your kids decide which books to read again, and if they really want to look up unknown words online, I wouldn’t battle over this).
A great way to introduce your middle school readers to more advanced classics and modern novels is to borrow them as audiobooks from your library, so your children are exposed to beautiful stories and can live in that world for a bit while they are being driven around, or working on art projects. If they love a story, they may decide to borrow the book and reread it, or read the sequel. Reading a book while also listening to an audiobook is an incredibly effective way to improve reading comprehension in children, so it all counts. Light reading for fluency, on-level reading for assigned books (in school or at home in homeschool), and advanced books by audiobook so they become familiar with the stories, the language, and the vocabulary before tackling the books down the line.
3. Watch The Movie After
Sometimes my sons read a great book that is so engaging, they want to watch the movie. I say “You got it!”, then borrow the dvd from the library, pop up some popcorn, and we make a family fun night of it. They love to think about the book they ready, compare it to the movie, relive it in the movie, and sometimes they want to reread the book. Other times, I find them looking for books that also have a movie so they can repeat the experience of reading a good middle school book, then seeing it enacted on the big screen (and see if it plays out like it did in their minds while reading).
Anything that encourages them to read is a good idea. Any reading they enjoy will make other reading easier for them- manuals, text books, scientific magazines, etc. If they love reading non-fiction books and enjoy it (the Dangerous Book for Boys is a great choice), that is great! Stock up the house with a variety of reading material they enjoy, and all reading in their life will be easier, and they will more likely become lifelong readers on their own too.
If you have a garden and a library, you have everything you need.
-Marcus Tullius Cicero
And if you only read 25 books in middle school, consider these to read, and reread, and then keep reading again throughout your life… they are our favorites!!
Our Favorite Middle School Novels
Animal Farm by George Orwell
Anne of Green Gables by L.M. Montgomery
A Tree Grows in Brooken by Betty Smith
Because of Winn-Dixie by Kate DiCamillo
Bud, Not Buddy by Christopher Paul Curtis
Everything Sad is Untrue by Daniel Nayeri
Farmer Boy by Laura Ingalls Wilder
Half-Magic by Edward Eager
Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire by J.K. Rowling
Johnny Tremain by Esther Forbes
Little Women by Louisa May Alcott
Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen
Sadako and the Thousand Paper Cranes by Eleanor Coerr
Son of Interflux by Gordon Korman
The Adventures of Tom Sawyer by Mark Twain
The Great Brain by Jon D. Fitzgerald
The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien
The Island of the Blue Dolphins by Scott O’Dell
Mail Order Wings by Beatrice Gormley – one of my favorite books as a child, I was heart-broken when it went out of print and was so happy when it became available again
The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane by Kate DiCamillo
The Mysterious Benedict Society by Trenton Lee Stewart – my younger son said this is the only series that is as good as the Harry Potter series
The Outsiders by S. E. Hinton
The Princess Bride by William Goldman
The War That Saved My Life by Kimberly B. Bradley
Tuck Everlasting by Natalie Babbit