Some children are readers, enthusiastic, undeterred readers. Despite all the distractions, obstacles and peer pressure they are rarely seen without their nose in a book. These children are the next generation of adult avid readers and they are experiencing something I wish every child experienced – the true magic of losing themselves in a good book.
Unfortunately TV often tells them relentlessly that readers are strange and uncool. Take the TV show ‘The Middle’ for example. The youngest son is an avid reader, he is also a social outcast, has a lot of “tics” including whooping and whispering the last line of everything he says. This does not present a very flattering picture of children who love nothing better than reading. Keeping an enthusiastic reader hooked in the face of this kind of battering is not all that easy. Couple this with the fact that many enthusiastic readers have a reading age way above their actual age – making it difficult to find suitable books – and you have quite a problem.
So what can parents and teachers do to help keep these children interested in reading? It might seem obvious to praise the child for reading as much as possible. Unfortunately this can sometimes bring unwanted attention to their reading, which can make them uncomfortable. This is particularly true for older children and those who are naturally more shy. Praising them quietly rather than in front of their peers and encouraging other children to read more without using them as an example is a more effective technique. Quiet praise might include house points or merit marks (or whatever your school’s equivalent is) in their books, and rewarding them for good work with extra reading time. Generally an enthusiastic reader does not need much praise for reading. The book itself is their reward. What they need most is facilitation of their reading. For teachers this might mean allowing them to read whenever they have finished their work in class. For parents this might mean allowing them half an hour of bedtime reading before lights out.
The other problem of a lack of suitable books requires a little more effort. Age-appropriate books may be difficult to find. There are many Facebook groups for children’s books which are helpful for suggestions of suitable books. Screening books that are meant for older children or even adults is also useful. That way there is a constant supply of books ready for them. Note, it is not necessary to actually read them yourself, you can ask online if people have read it and skim through to ensure there is no age-inappropriate content. There are many books that are ostensibly for young adults or even adults that are PG-rated. These are inherently suitable for tweens that read well above their actual age. Of course the subject matter will also need to coincide with the child’s interests as well.
Younger age children are well catered for by the likes of Enid Blyton, C.S. Lewis and a good number of children’s mystery authors (think Nancy Drew, Artemis Fowl and similar). I would also recommend Brian Jaques Redwall series for children of all ages with a reading age of 11 plus. The Divide series by Elizabeth Kay and the Neverending Story are also well worth looking at for children with an advanced reading age.