Interactive Ways to Encourage Your Children to Read

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Reading gets an interactive twist through teaching tactics such as games, DVDs, multi-platform publishing and animal-friendly programming
By Jennifer Danko

In a multimedia age powered by video games and online activities, books can sometimes take a backseat in your child’s interests. With so many stimuli, how do you encourage your kids to get excited about reading?

The answer is to integrate, says Shannon Riley-Ayers, assistant research professor for the National Institute of Early Education. Absorbing written information doesn’t have to come only by the way of books; you can promote literacy to your children by engaging in various hands-on activities, many of which are available or sponsored through your local libraries.

“Literacy starts with motivation,” Riley-Ayers says. By tapping into interactive reading resources, you will not only teach your children the importance of literacy, but you will also make them excited to embrace it.

Look and Listen

Books on tape—or in most cases, CDs—are still a tried-and-true method for encouraging reading. Riley-Ayers suggests tuning into stories on a car ride as a diversion from the typical DVD. “Kids can follow along by tracking the print in the books,” she says. Local libraries offer a plethora of audio books that are sure to engage and inspire every young reader on the move.

Think Subtly with Subtitles

Sing-a-long DVDs are a great way for your kids to interact with words by singing them off of the screen. The same practice can also be applied to movies, Riley-Ayers says. “Put on the subtitles while watching a movie—even if they pick up one or two words, it’s beneficial,” she says. For a true literary bonus, consider spelling bee-centered flicks such as Spellbound and Akeelah and The Bee. Both may be available at your local library.

Typing Tactics

For young children learning to read, typing is a great reinforcement tool. Fortunately, the British Broadcasting Company (BBC) has launched a learn-to-type Web-based program that entertains as it teaches. Dance Mat Typing is a free program that shows children lower-case letters, so kids learn to match them up with upper-case ones on the keyboard. Parents can access the interactive site on computers at their local library.

Consider Multi-Platform Publishing

Today’s kids crave multi-faceted learning experiences. That’s why innovative series such as Scholastic’s 39 Clues are emerging as valuable resources for parents who are encouraging their children to take an interest in reading. In the case of 39 Clues, kids supplement the adventure stories in each book with puzzles, card games and online games, and even an interactive prize competition. David Levithan, executive editorial director at Scholastic, says that the interactive books bring an added twist to storytelling. “The books present a fun mix of challenges that is rewarding, but ultimately brings them back to reading the books,” he says.

Game On

Family literacy time scores big points with classic word games such as Scrabble® or Boggle®. Many libraries sponsor family game nights that encourage the whole family to play interactively with words, which produces a positive and fun experience for kids learning to read.

Animal Antics

Want your child to build some reading self esteem? Let them read to animals, suggests Dana Neubauer, librarian and program coordinator for the north branch of the Hunderton County Library in Flemington, New Jersey. In an effort to promote libraries and literacy to children, Neubauer recently launched “Paws to Read,” a program that allows kids to bring their dogs to the libraries and read to them. “They see the library as a fun place to be,” Neubauer says. “It’s not a dull place where people are ‘shushing’ you.”

Additionally Riley-Ayers says that reading to animals is an effective way to practice their skills in a relaxed setting, without judgment.

“The more practice you get at reading, the better you become,” she says. “It’s good for self-esteem.”

Contact your local library to learn more about the games and reading programs that may be available.

Recommended Resources

Raising Bookworms
By Emma Walton Hamilton
As a parent, you are often wondering how you can get your child to turn off video games and pick up a book. Emma Walton Hamilton offers more than 150 effective yet simple strategies to encourage even the most reluctant readers to take on a book and indulge in the interactive pleasures of reading. The book presents methods for building, maintaining or restoring a love of reading at every age range.

Story Time Crafts for Kids Volume 1
By Holly Adler
Story Time Crafts engages kids in book reading through arts and crafts. Each of the book’s 26 projects is inspired by a classic work of children’s literature, enabling parents to encourage reading through hands-on learning. Each activity includes a synopsis of the book that inspired it, along with character details. The age range of books sampled varies from kindergarten through 5th grade, while the projects incorporate easy-to-use, safe supplies.

39 Clues
Book series (published by Scholastic—various authors)
This innovative, multi-platform reading series offers interactive ways to engage children to read through books, playing cards, online games and even a $100,000 prize sweepstakes! Geared toward children aged eight to 12, the “39 Clues” series will eventually include 10 interconnected books that require kids to solves puzzles and compete with other readers online for prizes. The first book, The Maze of Bones by Rick Riordan was released in September 2008, while the second installment, One False Note by Gordon Korman was published in December 2008. Eight addition installments will follow, each generating a new buzz around reading.

Scholastic Clifford Reading (CD-Rom/Windows)
When it comes to entertaining reading activities, Scholastic Clifford Reading is top dog, offering kids seven levels of reading that continually introduce new letters, sounds and words. As they advance, readers earn bonus books they can read and color on their own. In addition to more than 100 readings lessons, the set also includes 15 printable activities that complement on-screen learning sessions.

LeapFrog® Sing-Along Read Along (DVD)
Reading time gets an interactive twist from LeapFrog® Sing-Along Read Along, a learning DVD that features 12 animated, musical stories that creates a more melodic learning experience. In addition to building reading skills through on-screen fun, the DVD includes 12 matching storybooks to reinforce the learning and inspire kids to take up reading wherever they go.

“Paws to Read” program (participating libraries)
Does your little ones love animals? If so, they will certainly have fun sharing story time with canines and kitties alike. Through “Paws to Read” programs currently in place at select libraries across the country, pre- and school-aged kids can practice reading with their favorite furry friends on select Saturdays. The program presents an engaging reading experience for children of all ages. Schedules and programs vary; inquire at your local library for details.

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