Instructables
Picture of How to turn your kids into bookworms
What is your goal? Improve your kids' test scores? Keep them occupied during a trip? Open their minds? Improve their ability to emphasize with others? Expand their vocabulary? Do you want a couple hours of peace and quiet (without the repetitive 4 bit music from game players)? Do you like having something interesting to discuss with them as you put them down to bed at night? Whatever your goal, the solution is the same. Turn them into bookworms!



Babies will gravitate naturally towards books, but as they grow older, without proper encouragement and reinforcement, some kids drift away. This instructable will give tips and strategies to turn them into lifetime readers.



If you're not convinced reading is important, check out the hundreds of studies on the benefits of reading.
 
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Step 1: Books and lots of them

Picture of Books and lots of them
Books can become an expensive habit, but you need to have a lot around, and get new ones regularly or even an avid reader will eventually tire of the same stories. The first and cheapest solution is, of course,  



Public libraries



Go to the library, hand out there to read or take the books home. In the hot summer days, libraries are particularly nice places to hang out. Cool and quiet, many of them offer activities such as readings, tutoring, and classes, as well as programs to distribute free books to take home and keep. 



Second excellent solution to the cost of books is buying them second hand



I think the idea of a spanking new book is over-rated. As long as the book doesn't smell of mildew and the pages hold together, who cares?



Ebay or Craisgslist won't save you much money, because of shipping charges or the hassle of picking up a single volume from across town. Church sales, stoop sales, thrift shops, and friends with older children are great sources for books in bulk. In my neighborhood lots of people also offer books for free: they put a box on the stoop with a "take me!" sign for walkers-by. I live in an apartment building with a common laundry in the basement. Next to the washing machines there's a bookcase which serves as a free book-exchange. Residents leave books for their neighbors, and take them at will. If you don't have an informal "library" like this in your building you might be able to set one up.





PurpleKat3 years ago
This is a lovely Instructable, but I have to ask -- what's with imposing your tastes on your kids? Are the Manga books teaching lessons about the way people are or the way the world works that you don't want your kids learning -- and if so why are you allowing them in the house at all? I mean, if it's just that the stories aren't sophisticated enough for you, people used to say the same thing about Jane Austen, back when reading 'modern' fiction at all was considered vapid. It seems like part of being a bookworm is having control over what you choose to read and discover.

If my parents had directed my reading the way you describe, I would have dutifully (I was one of the backward dutiful kids) read what I knew they wanted me to read, but I inevitably wouldn't have enjoyed a lot of it, and that might have led me to conclude that I didn't enjoy reading. I know my parents must have cringed at my 12 year old self's Xanth obsession, but ultimately, they didn't care, as long as I was reading. They (rightly) figured that I would branch out into more sophisticated stories as I got older.

A lot of your suggestions are great though, especially the idea of books as treats. The thing that most drove me towards being a reader was the Scholastic books that we could order at school. Coming in and seeing brand new books on my desk was always so exciting.

Just came across this thread and stopped to think back with much nostalgia - those books that I chose myself, without any intererence or even suggestions from my parents, and the waiting and the pure pleasure of finding them on my desk...
Haven't yet ever bumped into anyone else who has mentioned that...
Nice one.
belsey (author)  carlymyman2 years ago
Someone brought the book into your house or put it on your desk... Or in the public library, a librarian chose to display it prominently on the shelf... In the book store too a publisher worked hard to put their book in the window. Intentionally or not, all our choices, and particularly all the choices of a child, are curated. A parent can't and shouldn't try to impose specific texts, but it's not realistic to think that a parent isn't going to influence the child's choices -- and I don't think it's wrong either. Transmitting values is a big part of what parenting is about. You didn't choose those books as a child, your parents did. They were just wise enough not to show their cards.
belsey (author)  PurpleKat3 years ago
Most of this instructable is about encouraging and directing kids to read WITHOUT telling them to or imposing your will or taste. So I'm a bit confused that you think the methods I describe would inevitably lead them to conclude they don't enjoy reading -- and I can assure you this is not the case! That said, of course I have opinions and it is impossible to completely repress the desire to share my taste and values (especially with my own kids). The reason I dislike manga so much is not that the stories aren't sophisticated (nothing's wrong with a simple story, simply told) but that they are filled with fighting, battles and trash talk, and after putting the books down my sons invariably pick up whatever can be used as a weapon and start hitting each other, while making grand, ballet-like gestures and boastful obnoxious comments. That's what they've been memorizing, by reading the manga over and over. As far as allowing those books in the house is concerned, well, I put all the blame on my husband. He's the one who bought those -- and since I let my kids make their own reading choices, those are some of the most worn volumes I have.
Gocho2 years ago
I love your guide. My childs can't read yet, but I'll keep your instructions and recover it in 2 or 3 years.

Thanks!
belsey (author)  Gocho2 years ago
In the meantime you can read to your child... Even if he/she can't even talk yet, nothing beats cuddling up together and sharing an interesting and beautiful book.
GlowWireGuy2 years ago
LOL at bookworm picture! :D
mikemckay2 years ago
What a great article.

Never give up on reading to your kids. My wife read to our son right upto grade ten before he finally started reading on his own. Now he devours books.
Roflolommo3 years ago
My parents basically did this. I've been reading since I was a wee child. However I've realized schools are awful for reading. I actually got in trouble because they thought I was "pretending" to read books several times. I remember a teacher taking a book away from me because she thought I stole it and that it couldn't have been mine and my parents had to get it back from the school. Admittedly that book was a college textbook on history. I've always hated school because they teach to the stupidest student in the class.
bhylak3 years ago
"make sure you buy more books than toys. Kids might THINK they want toys more, but in fact, they will spend much more time with a book than a remote control car."

You might THINK you want freedom, but what you REALLY want is slavery. Fo real, it'll save you in the long run.

-Big Brother

P.S. You can have too many books. Trust me.
belsey (author)  bhylak3 years ago
Yes, I suppose it is possible to have too many books -- though I've never met anyone who did, and most kids I know definitely have too many toys... As for the idea that kids think they want something which, in fact, turns out to be much less fun than expected... I would venture to guess that you are either childless or your child is too young for you to have experienced the crushing disappointment of watching the much nagged for, expensive, most anticipated present end up being ignored and shoved aside after a day or two of use. I would even broaden that premise and say it's not just limited to kids. Adults think they want stuff they never end up using: why do you think bread-makers are fixtures of both wedding registers and garage sales? As for the comparison toy=freedom vs book=slavery -- I admit I don't quite get that.
bhylak belsey3 years ago
First off all, for a lot of people including myself, its easier to learn hands on.

Anyway the whole thing about your kids thinking they want something, it was a reference to the whole bit in 1984 Peace is War, Freedom is Slavery, etc.
belsey (author)  bhylak3 years ago
I haven't read that since I was a teen -- and it's been a while, so I forgot that part. But now I get your comment. This instructable isn't so much about reading to learn, it's more about learning to enjoy reading. Of course when you're trying to acquire a specific skill just reading about it (even if you're reading an instructable) won't be enough. You've got to do it! Couldn't agree more.
Tell me, was my guess about you correct?
bhylak belsey3 years ago
Yes, you were correct.
terribug bhylak3 years ago
I have 5 kids, Belsey, and you are so right. My kids have saved their favorite books for far longer and spent more time with them than any flash-in-the-pan glitzy toys they ever got! We have a large, dynamic library in our home, with books entering and exiting (to lend!) at a great rate. My kids are more jealous of their books than of their toothbrushes. (Actually, that would be a no-brainer where kids are concerned, wouldn't it? LOL) I would just add to your instructable that, giving a slight homage to bhylak, it's easier to make them bookworms if you read to them, and then have a book-related activity. As a professional tutor, my reading instruction often begins with reading to the student from a short story, then getting them to draw a picture, make a clay figure, or otherwise bring out the ideas in the story. Then, we work on "skills," such as spelling words or writing our own stories or sentences.

Good job on this instructible, Belsey!
belsey (author)  terribug3 years ago
You're right, I probably didn't emphasize the "reading to them" aspect quite enough; that's because my kids have passed that stage, and though I do still read out loud to them once in a while it's no longer part of the daily routine. It used to be though. I'd also forgotten about the reading related crafts.... After reading "A Cricket in Times Square" My kids and I built a beautiful little golden cricket cage with a bell. We even went to a pet store to find an inhabitant for it, but the crickets there were tiny and would escaped in a split second... So it ended up housing a variety of species of plastic animals and super heros. When I get a chance I might add that as another step. Thanks for the idea!
seamster3 years ago
I really enjoyed this! Thank you for posting it. My wife and I have four boys, and the two oldest (6 and 8) have just recently started tearing through all of our small library at an alarming rate. A 6 year old reading Harry Potter 1 and 2 in only three days? Ah!

I especially like the bedtime tips. We're gonna have to do that. Thanks a bunch!
balisticjoe3 years ago
Now for me, being forced to read made me hate books. It took the enjoyment away, especially when I couldn't chose what I wanted to read. I did eventually enjoy books, but it was after they were being shoved down my throat.
belsey (author)  balisticjoe3 years ago
I agree. The mandatory half hour of reading my boys have for school homework (and, worst of all, the reading log they have to fill out) sucks all the fun and spontaneity out of reading... which is why I usually ignore the requirement, because I figure without timing them, reading here and there when they feel like it, they easily fulfill their required time. Once in a while though I will insist that for their homework reading they pick a book which had more words than pictures.
ilpug3 years ago
I am 17, and read at a college level. Reading is the best way someone can learn. Schools these days are pretty much broken. In California at least.
ilpug3 years ago
I wholeheartedly reccomend getting a copy of Let Them Have Books, by Gaby Chapman. Its not too expensive, and is available online. Gaby Chapman was my English teacher, and is a total genius when it comes to education though reading.
bajablue3 years ago
Excellent. Children must be TAUGHT to treat books with respect.

If it's not a coloring book, it's NOT a book to color in.
wilgubeast3 years ago
Awesome awesome awesome awesome. As a former reading teacher, I approve wholeheartedly. LOVE IT. This is brilliant. I wish I'd had your instructable to hand out to the parents of my students while I was teaching. A bonus tip: if the kids are going to watch tv, turn on the closed captioning. It is a great passive vocabulary builder.
So true!!!!

It's also helpful to use closed-captioning in a language you'd like to learn.

I frequently watch movies closed-captioned in Spanish.

tincanz3 years ago
What a wonderful instructable! I am only 15, but many of my peers have not touched a book for fun in years. This is a message that would be very beneficial among high schoolers, but, unfortunately, many of them would not listen to it without a professional athlete or hot girl telling them.... Maybe other means must be constructed to reach such a determined not to learn audience. Anyway, a starting point has to be made eventually, and I congradulate you for that.