It’s been a while since I’ve shared about our books around here. I’ll do a post later about my summer reading list, but I thought I’d give some ideas for books for kids since summer is a great time to catch up on reading.
In our house, I don’t make the kids read at all. I never say to them, “Go sit down and read for 30 minutes.” I think when you start to give reading out as a chore, it taints the image that kids have of reading. It becomes a responsibility and not a choice, and that’s a powerful difference when you are building readers. Besides, have you ever been made to sit down and read when you didn’t want to? It’s miserable – and I am a book lover! Reading is personal and should be enjoyed. It’s not about a word count. It’s about building life-long readers, and I believe that begins by framing reading as positive experience.
While I don’t tell them to read, there are certain ways that I encourage reading around my house.
- I read with my kids. Kids are little mockingbirds. Whatever we are modeling for them will show up in unexpected ways (like the time when Bean was a kindergartener and he dropped a hot dog at a baseball game and responded, “Shit!” Oops…). So, I model reading. I read all over the house and all the time, which means my kids do, too. Sometimes, we sit together and read silently. Sometimes they read to me while I cook dinner or while I’m driving. We talk about their books a lot and I tell them about mine. Creating a culture of readers in your home is a huge part of raising readers.
- Treat reading as a reward. Reading is a privilege in our house because Chris and I treat it like one and have since they were little bitty. They can stay up late if they are reading, they can go to the library if something good happens at school, they can earn books with their beads, we give books and Barnes and Noble gift cards as gifts… all because these actions set the tone for the place we hold books in our family. They are a prize, a reward, something to be excited about. If you are treating books as punishment for your kids, then they will grow up seeing books as just that. But if they grow up in a house where books are treated as a treat, then they will grow up seeing books as that, too.
- Read at bedtime. We have read at bedtime with our kids since they were infants. Now, they don’t need us to read to them, but they still read every night before bed. And we don’t set a bedtime for that. They have to be in bed by 8:00, but they can stay up reading as long as they want. Sometimes, I take my book into one of their rooms and I curl up next to them and we read our books quietly together. Sometimes, they come get in my bed and read their books in my room with me. Books are a great way to help calm our minds, especially little minds. They help the kids relax and fall asleep, and that quality time at night to read by themselves is important to each of them. In fact, the punishment at our house is that you CAN’T read before bedtime!
- Never pick books for your kids. This one is hard for me to follow because I am an avid reader and a middle school English teacher, which means I have a ton of books that I just KNOW my kids would love to read. But I have to hold myself back from pushing. Again, books are personal. And both my kids have preferences. I certainly make suggestions, but I never insist they read a particular book. The freedom of reading is what my kids love the most about it. They love going into a library or bookstore and knowing they can pick WHATEVER THEY WANT. That kind of liberation is huge for a kid, who is constantly told what they can and can’t do. If they pick up a book that is above their reading level, I don’t ever say that to them (please, don’t ever tell a child they aren’t ABLE to read anything!) . Instead, I praise their book choice and then ask them to read a page or two out loud to me to “see what it’s about.” As they stumble over the words, they usually decide for themselves that it is too hard to read and I say something nonchalant like, “That’s probably a good idea. I bet we can find something similar that’s a little easier to read.”
Having said all of that, let’s take a look at some things my kids have been loving in the past few months. We’ll start with Bean.
SUGGESTIONS FOR NINE YEAR OLD ADVANCED BOY READER:
Bean reads about three grade levels above his actual grade level, which you would think would be great. The problem we run into is that often the books are written for a middle schooler, and so they have some things in them that Bean either doesn’t understand or that I don’t think he needs to be reading too much of (like boyfriend/girlfriend situations). But here are a few of his favorite series right now that I feel like are good for his age and reading level:
- Harry Potter – He finished this series over the past year and was obsessed with all things Harry Potter for a while.
- Spirit Animals – This book combined animals with the mythical/mystical genre that Bean loves. He is currently working his way through this series and really likes it.
- Heroes of Olympus – Bean has been reading this series for years now. It was what got him first interested in Greek/Roman mythology (as I write this, Bean just corrected me that it first got him interested in ROMAN mythology, not Greek… geez, Mom…).
- Heroes in Training – THIS is the book series that I was thinking of. He started this one in first grade and he LOVED learning about Greek gods and mythology. After this series, he read the Percy Jackson and the Olympians series, and then the Heroes of Olympus series.
- NEXT UP: After he finishes the Spirit Animal series this summer, he has decided to tackle the first book the Chronicles of Narnia series after I suggested it to him a few months ago.
SUGGESTIONS FOR SEVEN YEAR OLD GIRL JUST GETTING INTO CHAPTER BOOKS:
Gracie is not a reluctant reader, but because Bean is such an avid reader, it seems like she doesn’t read as much. That’s not necessarily true. She just doesn’t stick with series very well. She likes to bounce around books from series to series and, unlike Bean, she doesn’t announce what she is reading. Gracie will pick up a book, read it, and move on without saying a word to anyone. She reads right on grade level and has recently started finding some chapter books that she really likes. She’s even read more than one book in the series for some of these!
- Magic Animal Friends – All of Gracie’s favorite books are about animals and this is a series that has held her attention. They have short chapters, which helps, too.
- Sophie Mouse – If she had to pick anything to read, Sophie Mouse would win. It’s been her favorite series so far.
- Owl Diaries – This was the series that got Gracie reading chapter books last year. She loves this one! I think the books are little small for her, but I don’t say a word.
- Critter Club – These are her newest favorites. She just recently started reading these because a friend was reading them.
For more posts on how to raise readers and for book suggestions at different ages, check out these posts:
- Teaching Your Preschooler to Read
- Audio Books for Kids – Who Knew?!
- A Simple Summer Craft: Book Chains
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