Thursday, January 13, 2011

Please change your RSS feed for Getting Kids Reading

We've upgraded Getting Kids Reading!

We're at

However, if you've got an RSS feed for Getting Kids Reading, it will be pointing to this page, under a different URL.

Please go to and grab our RSS feed from there.

I wish I were technically knowledgeable enough to make this process seamless for you, but there you go. Thanks everyone, for reading GKR and we hope to see you at the new site!


Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Reading keeps those characters alive

Beautiful PSA about reading.

This brilliant and moving public-service ad expresses perfectly how I feel about kids and reading. It really touched me and I want everyone to see it, so please do share it.

It was created for a second-year Media Arts class at Sheridan College, Ontario. Mike Rilstone, Director of Photography; Directed by Steph Korski and produced by Bryn Ross. Here's the original YouTube link.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Getting kids reading: What does work

What does work. (By Getting Kids Reading.)

Reading to your kid every day. The number-one thing you can do to create a reader.

Letting him see you read. Kids do what their parents do. If you don't enjoy reading - fake it. Or read magazines or comic books or something.

Surrounding your kid with books. Access to books gives a kid ownership and once they feel entitled to books they're more likely to casually pick them up - now and throughout their life.

Reading extensions. I'm referring to other media that are associated with certain books - movies, a TV series, cartoons, merchandise - that may interest the child in a book. Who cares what hooks the child into reading? As long as he eventually reads the book, it's all useful.

Letting your kid choose what he reads. Many schools now go by the maxim that "any reading is good reading" and, barring violence or inappropriate content, I agree. If you don't like his choices, then find something similar that you do approve of. For instance, if he's reading Superman comics, find him novels with superheroes.

Treating books like treasures. Books contain: secrets, surprises, gems, rewards, new friends, adventures, useful facts, gross stuff, silliness and lots of other things your kid values. Let your kid see that a book is something precious and exciting and cool.

Turning off the TV. Much as I hate being the bad cop, you've gotta, gotta limit screen-time. Create space for reading time. Here's a GKR article about the reading bubble.

Sharing books with friends. The next time your child's friend is over, casually mention that your kid is reading "....." book, and ask what they're reading. Before you know it, the two will be having a conversation about books. And that will reinforce what you're trying to do in a way that only peers can.

Letting girls be girls and boys be boys. Your boy may want to walk around while he reads. Boys need to move, especially when they're thinking. Your daughter may want to read stuff about dogs and love and celebrities. Girls often gravitate towards books with detailed relationships. (Advice: get your boy an exercise ball to sit on instead of a chair; get your girl a book with an empowered heroine who has sophisticated relationships.)

Never giving up. Don't stop trying to get your kid to read. It's so important. So, so important. If one thing doesn't work, try something else. One day it will click and your kid will be a reader. And spend the rest of his or her life thanking you.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Getting your kid reading: What doesn't work

From the RIF (Reading is Fundamental) website: What doesn't work.

Nagging. Avoid lecturing about the value of reading and hounding a child who is not reading. Your child will only resent it.

Bribing. While there's nothing wrong with rewarding your child's reading efforts, you don't want your youngster to expect a prize after finishing every book. Whenever possible, offer another book or magazine (your child's choice) along with words of praise. You can give other meaningful rewards on occasion, but offer them less and less frequently. In time, your child will experience reading as its own reward.

Judging your child's performance. Separate school performance from reading for pleasure. Helping your child enjoy reading is a worthwhile goal in itself.

Criticizing your child's choices. Reading almost anything is better than reading nothing. Although you may feel your child is choosing books that are too easy or that treat subjects too lightly, hide your disappointment. Reading at any level is valuable practice, and successful reading helps build confidence as well as reading skills. If your differences are simply a matter of personal taste, respect your child's right to his or her own preferences.

Setting unrealistic goals. Look for small signs of progress rather than dramatic changes in your child's reading habits. Don't expect a reluctant reader to finish a book overnight. Maybe over the next week, with your gentle encouragement.

Making a big deal about reading. Don't turn reading into a campaign. Under pressure, children may read only to please their parents rather than themselves, or they may turn around and refuse to read altogether.

Hmmm. So here's an interesting conundrum. I liked this article, which I found on a month or two ago. Sometimes when I see a good article, I stash it or its URL in my "edit" file until I can use it. Unfortunately, in this case I don't know whether I parsed/rewrote it before stashing it (to prevent plagiarism) or just stashed the whole article from RIF, intending to rewrite it later (crediting RIF, of course). And now I can't find it on RIF's website. Can't find it anywhere. Searched and searched. So: apologies to RIF if I ripped (or riffed) you off. Just to be safe I'll put a nice big link to RIF right in the headline. There. Good article, though, eh? On second thought, maybe it's RIF's original article after all. I don't think I'd say "youngster." "Kid" is more my style. UPDATE: Oh geez, it's like a week later and I just remembered. I actually contacted RIF and asked them if I could reproduce their article! (They said yes.) Oh phew! Know what made me think of it? I was writing the companion article, "What does work," and I was thinking, "I wonder if RIF would be interested in reading this?" And then I recalled e-mailing them and hearing back from them. Oh geez. Sorry to make you read all of this fine print - but thanks for hanging in there. Wasn't the ending worth it? Well, it was for me. You're awesome, reader.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Take 30 seconds for literacy this holiday

Think about literacy.

Take 30 seconds during the holidays - today - to reflect on how you can help your child become a better reader, enjoy books more and have greater access to books.

Just taking the time to focus on literacy will bring your child one step closer to enjoying reading more.

Here are some ideas to help you answer the question:

"How can I help my child enjoy reading more?"

* Extend your child's bedtime - as long as he's reading, he can stay up a bit later.

* Take your child to the library.

* Buy a great book and put it on your child's pillow for her to discover tonight.

* Buy yourself a good book. When kids see their parents reading, they're more likely to read themselves. (Have you read Andre Agassi's new biography Open? Even if you don't like sports, biographies or Andre Agassi - you will enjoy this great, fast and engaging read.)

* Read with your child tonight, even if he's already reading by himself.

* Buy books at Goodwill or another second-hand store.

* Rent your child the movie of a famous book. Buy the book too.

* Suggest that the grandparents purchase a magazine subscription for your child.

* Buy your child a booklight. Let him use it tonight after lights-out.

* Get your son a fact-based book like the Guinness Book of Records or one with lots of adventure like Percy Jackson and the Lightning Thief (the graphic novel has just come out).

* Get your daughter a book with lots of great characters and developed relationships, or one with a wonderful, empowered heroine like Eloise.

* Don't ever give up. Every second you spend with your child on reading is quality time and an investment in his future.

Image: Wikimedia Commons, by this author.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Great game: "No it wasn't"

Here's a great game that can spark an interest in plot and character. (And giggling and goofiness.)

By Jennifer A. Nielsen

A great road trip game is called “No, It Wasn’t.” It’s played with partners. One begins telling a story—any story. The other interrupts as often you like with, “No, it wasn’t”—or any grammatically-correct contradiction.

It may sound like this:
1: One morning, Jane went for a walk.
2: No, she didn’t.
1: That’s right. It wasn’t a walk. She was running. For exercise.
2: No, it wasn't.
1: Actually, it was because someone was chasing her. A bad guy.
2: No, it wasn’t.
1: No, it was the police. Jane is the bad guy.

And so on. The challenge to the storyteller is to instantly change direction, as often as they’re prompted.

As the story continues, the predictable story lines usually fall away, and the requirement to make changes opens the doors to great creativity. A new story begins to emerge, one that goes in radical new directions. In the example with Jane above, it would’ve originally been a story about her going to visit her friends. In only three twists, Jane is on the run from the police.

Choose a main character, any main character, then give them something to do. And so your game begins.
Need a prompt?

Here it is: When (Main Character) came home that day an old friend was waiting.
No, it wasn’t.

Ed: Thanks, Jennifer - it is a great game. My son and I played it and we giggled like idiots the entire time. I found that the game worked best when the adult did the first story-telling, so the child could get the hang of it. All he had to say was, "No it wasn't" and he could sort of see how things changed because of that. Then when it was his turn, he understood what needed to happen in his retelling. Thanks for letting us reprint this from the blog, Writing For Kids.

Jennifer A. Nielsen’s debut novel Elliot and the Goblin War was released in October 2010. And it comes with a warning–as of today, only seven children who have ever read this book have lived to tell about it. If you’re very brave, perhaps you’re willing to take your chance with it. The next book in the series, Elliot and the Pixie Plot will be released in May 2011.
(Ed: As soon as she's able to send us a review copy, we'll post a review about it. But I love the cover - look out, goblin! JG.)

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Access to printed materials does help

What impact, if any, does access to print materials have on our children's reading?

A lot, according to extensive research by RIF, Reading Is Fundamental, a non-profit children's literacy organization based in Washington, DC.

Owning and borrowing books from the library causes, "positive behavioural, educational and psychological outcomes."

In other words, kids who have access to books do better socially and at school.
(Does this sound familiar to regular GKR readers? But I digress.)

RIF found that having access to printed materials:

...improves children's reading performance. Children, and kindergarten students in particular, read better when they're often surrounded by books. instrumental in helping children learn the basics of reading. Kids who have lots of different books become better at identifying words, being able to sound out words, and read sentences.

...causes children to read more and for longer lengths of time. There is more shared reading between parents and children. Kids read more often and for longer stretches.

...produces improved attitudes toward reading and learning among children. Kids who own, borrow or who are given books say they like reading and schoolwork more than kids who don't have access to books.

So there you have it. It's what this blog has been advocating for more than a year, and I'm thrilled to see another significant study that backs it up: kids who have access to books are much more likely to become great readers, and to love reading.

Scatter books around the house
Please check out these ideas for surrounding your kid with books.
Mom got her son reading!
Percy Jackson and the Olympians (let him find books on his bed)
Get your six-year-old reading
More books = more education

How the RIF study was done
Researchers searched 11,000 reports and analyzed 108 of the most relevant studies. They then chose "the most thorough and carefully conducted 44" of the 108 and did further analysis in order to draw their conclusions. That's a lot of stuff.