FROM THE YELLIN CENTER NEWSLETTER - BACK TO SCHOOL 2014
Getting Children Engaged in Reading
Library photo by San Jose Library via Flickr
Getting your child or student to enjoy reading opens the door to new worlds, builds knowledge and vocabulary, and lets imagination take flight. But it is not always simple to engage children in reading in the face of so many other distractions – especially those they access via technology. Two things that parents and teachers can do to help create enthusiastic readers is to help children select the right book and to help them to share their thoughts about the books they read with others.
FIND THE RIGHT BOOK
Getting boys excited by reading is a great deal easier since Harry Potter came along, but books aimed at boys are still a bit harder to find than those written to appeal to girls. The website Guys Read describes its mission as “helping boys become self-motivated, lifelong readers” by providing lists of books aimed at boys at all reading levels, as well as a separate section for audiobooks called Guys Listen.
And readers of all ages will enjoy YourNextRead, a website that is both user-friendly and visually appealing. Simply type in the title of a book you enjoyed and similar books will appear in a colorful diagram. Click on the image of a recommended book to read a brief description and reviews of the book, and if none of the suggestions are appealing (or if you've read them all), look for the More Books option at the bottom of the page to see even more suggestions. A search for books like James and the Giant Peach yielded The Fantastic Mr. Fox, also by Roald Dahl, Harriet the Spy by Louise Fitzhugh, The Phantom Tollbooth by Norton Juster, and many others. Hovering the mouse over the book will cause various thumbnail links to appear, allowing the user to easily find the book on Amazon, save it to a favorites list, email the title to a friend, preview sections of available books, and more. Membership (free) is not required to use YourNextRead, but members can save searches and view their search history, so it may be worth the time it takes to sign up.
WRITE A BOOK REVIEW
Giving young readers the chance to review books they've read is a great way to increase their engagement with texts. Higher engagement generally leads to better comprehension, and the chance to share their own opinions is empowering for kids. Reviews also give young readers important practice using expressive language.
Luckily, there are lots of online platforms young readers can use to share their opinions with the world. Kids generally enjoy seeing their words on a screen, but there’s a deeper importance to the ability to publish one’s writing: It enforces the notion that writing has a purpose and isn't just something teachers make students do. Here are a few ways kids can make their voices heard:
Dogo Books is a great place to start. This searchable archive collects reviews written by kids, for kids. It’s simple and streamlined. Kids can “like” reviews written by others and reply to them, too.
Many booksellers such as Amazon and Barnes & Noble have online platforms that allow visitors to read reviews written by others and to post their own. Other visitors can mark the review as “helpful” (or not) and the Amazon site gives users the opportunity to comment on reviews, too. Keep in mind that although some reviews here are written by kids, others will come from teachers and parents and may be less interesting to youngsters.
Encourage your child to start logging the books she reads on Goodreads. This free site makes it easy to list books that readers want to read and to share reviews of books they’ve read and enjoyed. Based on your child’s reviews, the software can also recommend books she is likely to enjoy. (If you like Goodreads, be sure to add The Yellin Center to your list of friends! We’ve rated hundreds of books and cataloged them by genre and grade level. Find us by searching for “Yellincenter”.)
One caveat for parents is to make sure your child follows basic rules of internet safety when posting or responding to a post. Using these sites together until your child is old enough to understand and follow basic rules for sharing information online is a must.
Not sure how to help your child write her review? Begin by reading some reviews together that others have posted. Ask your child which ones she liked best, then discuss what features of these reviews made them both enjoyable and helpful. For more pointers, there are tips for helping children write book reviews from the wonderful site readwritethink.org.
Whether you help your child become a more engaged reader by finding just the right book, or by sharing his thoughts about a book he just read, these sites can help encourage every child to read more – and to enjoy it more as well.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Beth Guadagni, M.A. is a Learning Specialist at The Yellin Center for Mind, Brain, and Education. She earned her bachelor's degree at Vanderbilt University, double majoring in English and secondary education, and her master’s degree from Columbia University's Teachers College. Before coming to the Yellin Center, Beth taught English at both the high school and middle school levels.