Wednesday, 30 January 2013

Help! School is back and my kid still hates reading!

Now we are all grown up, those summer holidays certainly fly, don't they? The craziness that is Christmas and New Year comes and goes in a flash, and all of sudden, it's time for new uniforms, new pencils and hour upon hour of trying to flatten the bubbles out of those newly contacted exercise books. 

When I was a kid, those five or six weeks seemed to stretch on forever. The hours I wasn't spending running around on the beach were spent curled up inside with the pile of books Santa kindly selected for me, and I loved it. I loved carefully examining each jacket, reading the blurb on the back and placing them in order from shortest to longest. I loved the process of choosing which one I was going to read next. I loved reading the first page of each one to work out which book was going to be the most exciting, the most shocking, which one I would be able to finish the fastest. 

Sadly, not all kids are as enthused by the idea of a book as I was, and admittedly, still am. Sometimes, getting a child to put down that remote control/gaming console/smartphone and pick up the latest Oliver Jeffers/Morris Gleitzman/David Levithan seems an impossible task. As a completely committed, head-over-heels, absolutely smitten lover of the written word, I must urge you to keep trying! Finding that one book that opens your child up to the possibilities the wonderful world of words has to offer can set the stage for a lifetime of enjoyable reading, which, in my opinion, is pretty darn exciting!

"But!!!" you might wail; "which book is going to capture my child and tear him/her away from his/her horrible *insert some kind of fun technology here*?"  

The key here might sound obvious, but it really is to hone in on what your child enjoys, and find it in a book. There is no point trying to make your ten year old daughter read Jackie French's latest historical fiction (although I must say, The Girl From Snowy River is fantastic) if she is more interested in the antics of a schoolgirl turned secret agent in the vein of Lauren Child's Ruby Redfort. Similarly, we talk to as many young boys who love Skulduggery Pleasant as we do boys who would much prefer to get into the latest hilarious offering from David Walliams (Ratburger was a big seller over Christmas). Obviously, not all ten year olds are alike, so go to the trouble of finding out what interests your child before finding a book for them to delve into. 

Having said that, variety is the spice of life and there are some fantastic stories out there that might just be magical enough to inspire your child to try something new. As well as the usual suspects for beginning readers such as Captain Underpants (there's a new one just out, did you know?), Billie B Brown, Hey Jack! and Judy Moodythere are other fabulous options for little ones trying to get comfortable with chapter books. Tashi is an oldie but a goodie that's great for boys and girls. It's full of ghosts and giants and adventure, but it's never scary and helpfully gets more difficult to read as the series progresses and your child becomes more confident in their reading. 

For the big kids, the world of young adult fiction can be a challenge. Again, choosing a book for your teenager really is about knowing what they like. Unfortunately, there is no one size fits all answer! By the time they hit high school, most kids know what they enjoy, and as much as it pains me to say it, they have decided whether reading is for them or not. Fear not! There is still a chance of pulling them back from the dark side if they have uttered a resounding "No!" to books. David Levithan's Every Day is a fantastic read for guys and girls about a boy who wakes up every day in a different person's body and has to live their life until he goes to sleep again, only to wake up anywhere, as anyone, the very next day. Patrick Ness' Chaos Walking trilogy is gripping for young adults and adults alike, while Melina Marchetta continues to weave her magic into insightful prose in her latest offering Quintana of Charyn, the third book in her Lumatere Chronicles series . It might take a bit of work and research, but there really is something for every young adult reader. 

So in summary, getting kids to read can appear to be a challenge, but with a bit of advice and perseverance you will undoubtedly find a winning book. Talk to your kids about what they like, what they don't like, and what they are willing to try. They might even surprise you! And don't forget, the gang here at Shearer's are always willing to help you out with suggestions.

- Sarah

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