A great book should inspire, encourage, and / or challenge them. It should always point them towards the hope you have for them, not simply away from “bad stuff” like digital tech. There are plenty of bad people who love reading, so let’s be clear: Reading won’t fix our kids. But it can be a blessing to their hearts and minds, and since we love our kids we introduce them to reading that reflects that.

A Great Book Will:

  • Engage our young readers. A fun story can be fun more than once. Books are actually fun to reread as we grow! We understand books in new ways as our brain develop and we gain life experience, which is a powerful part of the process. Don’t believe me? Try reading The Giver again as an adult. =) 
  • Excite their imagination. As avid readers know, books can make movies in your brain! This is why so many of us hate the movie version of books – they mess up all the pretty pictures we’d already made in our heads! This ability to create a picture for yourself is a major draw of reading and is what makes us feel like we’re part of the experience rather than simply watching it happen to someone else.
  • Build empathy. Reading helps us see situations from other points of view. Non-fiction helps us better understand our world and fiction helps us better understand ourselves.
  • Develop vocabulary: Learning new words is crucial for understanding others and being understood. Vocabulary is a primary indicator of reading strength. It is important to read books near our ability so we can grow, not simply power through difficult books we don’t understand simply because we “should”.

That’s Fine, But My Child Hates Reading!

As a middle school English teacher I ran into this all the time: I walk into the library with my class, introduce a genre and set the students loose to find something great. Inevitably a student is meandering, probably ending up deep in the Dewey decimal system next to “How To Use a Typewriter”.

When I ask them if they’ve found a book to read they often say something like “Mr. Sutherland, there aren’t any good books here.” This from the kid standing in the middle of a room stocked with thousands of middle-school level reads.

When I ask them what they like they usually will say “I hate reading.” And that makes sense. In their minds they do hate reading. It takes work. When there is time to ask them what they like to do it is often play sports or watch Netflix. 

Both of those activities are really fun, and reading is a life skill that we develop over time. Our children may not love reading the first time they try it (we rarely love trying difficult things for the first time), but it’s a valuable investment and a wonderful alternative to our digital fun.

To help with this process I’ve created a

4-step process to help pick great books

for you and your reader! Please check it out, let me know what helps and what can be improved, and remember that you’re doing amazing work as you help your child reach their full potential!