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“Engaging Your Reluctant Readers”

Some kids don’t read anything beyond what is required, and even the best Harry Potter book can’t beat the movie in their opinion. That’s unfortunate for a bookworm parent, but it’s also not the worst thing. Those kids are probably much better than we were at science and math.

As a new(ish) parent, I’m finding that some kids are natural readers. Some are not. While we should always encourage kids to read, the reality is that some are never going to find curling up with a book a fine way to spent a Saturday afternoon. Still, there are ways you can trick–er, engage a reluctant reader by making reading an actual experience. Here are five suggestions:

#1 Attend an event

I have a three-year-old. Even though books don’t hold her attention, she still has her favorites, and the Bad Kitty alphabet book is one of them. Nick Bruehl was supposed to come to our local bookstore (Anderson’s of Naperville), but cancelled due to COVID-19. I know Brooke would have loved to have met Nick (who is very pleasant; I met him at a conference once), and she would have been thrilled to see the actual author sign her copy. Many authors attend events, have book signings, have contests, etc. If a kid attends an event and has a good time, that good time is linked to books. Also, if they personally like an author because that author was kind to them, they may bother to read that particular author’s books in the future. (I can say that seeing the actual writer pen his name to her book would have blown Brooke’s mind).

#2 Form a very exclusive book club

Read a book at the same time as your child. Let them pick the book, and when you’re both done, let them pick a lunch place to talk about the book. Maybe you can make them think about something in the book they haven’t considered, or vice-versa. If you’re reading the book with them, they’ll feel like it’s less of a chore.

#3 Create a book project

You can’t do this with all books, but for some, you can create an associated non-reading project. For instance, with Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, you could create your own golden tickets. With Escape from Mr. Lemoncello’s Library, you could devise a scavenger hunt. In All Sales Final, its nefarious owner Ruth keeps a collection of snow globes, each symbolizing a town where the shop has been. A child could make a snow globe, selecting items that best represent their town (though, of course, that snow globe would be a decorative piece and not used for the same purpose as Ruth). For Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of Nimh, a shoebox may be used for the mouse’s habitat.

#4 Book versus movie

Plenty of good books have been made into movies. After reading a novel with your child, Friday night movie night can feature the film version. In the morning and over pancakes, discuss the differences between the two, and why any deviations were an improvement or not.

#5 Join the celebration

Each year, our local library celebrates the Harry Potter series with an all-day event that takes over the entire library, to include an actual Quidditch game, the Honeydukes Express food trolley, book-themed arts and crafts, a scavenger hunt, and dozens of other activities (which have expanded over the years). You can even take the Hogwarts Express via Platform 9 ¾, as my little Brooke is doing below:

Some books are so awesome they have droves of fans who celebrate them. If your kid gets excited, it could result in them dabbling with similar books they might never have read.

Not every kid is a reader, but every kid likes to be entertained and to feel special. There are plenty of reading-related projects that can serve these ends, and perhaps even make a kid discover a new author or realize that reading isn’t such a chore, after all.

In All Sales Final, my second middle grade novel, only eleven-year-old Anna can save her town from the dark magic of a secondhand shop that opens on Main Street. In its starred review, Kirkus Reviews referred to it as “. . . [a] delightful, safe read with insidious dark edges . . . An enchanting fantasy for middle-grade readers who like a touch of magic in their fiction.”

About the Book:What price would you pay for everything you’ve ever wanted?

11-year-old Anna has always wanted to be extraordinary, but she feels as ordinary as her sleepy Midwestern town of Longford. Then a secondhand shop opens in Longford – a shop full of magic that only Anna can see. When the shop’s owner, Ruth, offers Anna a job not just anyone can perform, Anna feels that her dream is finally coming true. Proudly, she spreads the news of the shop, charming others into visiting and helping match each person to the perfect item.

Then Anna sees what Ruth’s bargains take away from her customers. Ruth’s magic is darker than she let on, and so is the life she’s offered Anna. Even worse, if Anna doesn’t stop Ruth, Longford will be doomed. But what chance does one ordinary girl have against someone like Ruth?

Thank you, Sarah, for some fun ways to engage our readers who may not be engaged yet!

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3 Responses to Author Guest Post: “Engaging Your Reluctant Readers” by Sarah S. Reida, Author of All Sales Final

  1. Great point about kids may not want to engage with reading BUT they do want to be entertained. Love the idea of a book project. Hope you’ll check out The Reading Tub. Last summer we created a 13-week series on this topic that included some of these ideas, and others – like creating videos that let the kids do interviews (asking you questions, pretending to be a character), be a reporter, etc.

    • Sarah Reida says:

      I’d love to check that out – thanks for the lead. (It’s so hard not getting to go to the library right now – such a great spot for new ideas and brainstorms). Some ideas can be really simple, but if you have no reason to think of them, you won’t!

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