by Laura Backes
As I was writing “Best Books for Kids Who (Think They) Hate to Read” I often pictured so many parents I know who, concerned about their kids’ lack of enthusiasm for reading, head out to the book store and try to find that magical book that will turn things around. In my mind’s eye I saw them facing floor-to-ceiling shelves lined with the newest titles, desperately hoping one book would jump out from the rest and scream,
I wrote this book for those parents, and for you, if you find yourself in a similar situation.
Once children are well into second grade they should be able to read age-appropriate books on their own. Once they’re in third grade, they should search out books that appeal to them and read without much parental or teacher prompting. But some kids don’t follow this path and need a little help. As you probably know, getting a reluctant reader to pick up a book is much harder than simply turning off the television and demanding they read. Choosing books for these kids involves more than going to the library and checking out books you loved as a child. That’s why in Chapter 2, “When Bribes Fail: How to Help Your Child Learn to Love Reading,” I outline ten tips for parents to help them get their kids excited about the reading process, how to connect books to other things going on in their kids’ lives, and how to determine what kinds of books their kids will enjoy. One point reading specialists make over and over is that you need to match a book to your child, not try to force your child to read a pre-determined book.
But beyond learning what your child might like to read, one of the most valuable things a parent can do is to learn what elements make up a good book for reluctant readers.
In Chapter One, “Where Do I Start?” I describe eight characteristics that give books what I call “Reader Appeal.” These are (and I explain them in much more detail in the book):
- well-defined characters,
- fast-paced plots,
- concise chapters,
- suitable text,
- kid relevance,
- unique presentation
- and visual appeal (the last two apply to nonfiction titles).
Then, in Chapters 4-8, I review 125 carefully selected books that fit these criteria. Since I believe short lists can be more effective than long ones, these books are presented to you as a starting point, to help you determine where your child’s reading level currently is, and the kinds of books he or she will actually read. The reviews cover about two pages each, and include a picture of the book cover, an excerpt from the text, a synopsis, information on why this book appeals to reluctant readers and who might like it, and further reading recommendations if your child likes this book.
“Best Books for Kids Who (Think They) Hate to Read” is designed to help you become an expert in children’s books, to learn how to spot a book your child will like, and know where to find it in the book store or library. And, eventually, you can pass this knowledge on to your child as he or she moves from being a reluctant reader to a lover of books.