Freedom to Read How to Get Kids On Board

kids reading-2_copyThe right to read is often taken for granted. Not everyone grows up having free access to information. Not every child will have the chance be educated. Just ask Malalia Yousafzai what it cost her. When the Taliban took over part of Pakistan, forbidding girls from getting an education, Malalia fought for the right to attend school. When she was shot on the bus, no one expected her to survive. Yet, she recovered and wrote her memoir, I am Malalia, How One Girl Stood Up For Education and Changed the World inspiring others to take a stand, too.

Even in the United States where education is valued, books can be challenged. At the end of September, The American Library Association promotes Banned Books Week to foster the freedom to express one’s opinion and help make students aware that opportunity to read is not a given. Find out more about it in my previous post Celebrate Books the Memory of Mankind.

At my international school, we line the halls of our English floor with bookshelves filled with paperbacks, so our students can “grab and go.” We also celebrate the Reading Challenge during winter and summer term using every effort to promote reading.IMG_0272

I love that Free Little Reading Libraries movement has gone global. I found one in front of the fitness center in Divonnes-les-Bains,France where I swim. To promote the initiative, students painted old dressers and filled the drawers with free books. These bright-colored chests were placed around town where kids hang out: beside the lake, on the village square, in front the skate park and by public schools.

For someone raised in a family where the love of reading was passed down through the generations, I find it hard to fathom why anyone would not want to read. But not everyone grows up surrounded by tomes in a houseful of educators.

With all the other distractions today, it is becoming more difficult to interest kids in reading. Consequently, the number one question parents ask me at our teacher conferences is, “What can I do to get my child to read?”

“Do you read?” I ask.

When they tell me, “No,” I am not surprised that books are not their children’s priority either.

Here are few suggestions I offer parents to entice kids to crack open books.

  1. Take time out of your own busy schedule to read. Kids model adult behaviors.
  1. Make reading material readily available. Buy one of those old-fashioned bookshelves and fill it.
  1. Newsprint may be dying, but until then, let magazines and newspapers lounge around the house.
  1. Read to young children. No time? Too tired? Enlist the help of older siblings and other family members. Ask a grandparent if there is any greater joy than reading a favorite tale to that little body curled up in their lap?kids reading_copy
  1. Connect with kids on their turf. If they hate the schools’ recommended reading list, create a new one. Taper it to tap into their interests. For example, if they love sports, pick up an autobiography penned by one of their favorite athletes.
  1. If your child has difficulty reading, give them audio books. Or have them read stories at a lower grade level.
  1. Get a library card. And use it. Going to the library is a great, fat-free, low cost, healthy habit.

Of course, reading off Kindles, iPads and other devices is okay; however, in our hyper fast-paced, electronic-laden lifestyles, is there any better way to escape the rat race than by losing oneself in the pages of a good book?kids reading-3_copy

Be a rebel. Buy a book. Log off and read.

What are you reading today? Do you have any recommendations for a read-a-maniac like me or for any of the young adult readers that I teach?

Posted in education, family, inspiration, relationships, social view.


  1. I am heartened when I see a child reading for pleasure, not merely for assignment. With all the distractions in our super-connected world, developing a love of reading is not a given. I agree that parents can do much to encourage a child very early on, both by reading to the child and having books available.

  2. This is so true. I read to my kids from the time they were born until they were reading to me and they are both avid readers. We are now on the next generation with having new twin grandchildren and I’ve been reading to them since the day they were born. I often utilize our libraries to find new books to read

    • Yep, Rena that is what it is all about…passing on the love of books from one generation to the next. What fun to be sharing your love with twin grandchildren. Enjoy!

  3. Well-said, Pat and I couldn’t agree with you more. I am thrilled that my grandsons are all avid readers, thanks to the guidance of their parents. The way I see it, the less time tethered to a technical device, the better. Of course that goes for adults, myself included. I do love still love holding a book in my hands. Thanks for spreading this important message.

    • I am sure you played a great part in developing your grandsons love of books. I agree that we need less time tethered to our devices.
      The great irony of this use of technology is that even though we require our students in my school to BYOD (bring your own device), we are banning use of devices during break and at lunch time, so that they will socialize.

  4. I love the painted dresser full of books. There are so many neighborhoods in the US that would benefit from these dressers, but unfortunately, I’m betting they’d get stolen in the blink of an eye. Brenda

  5. I am 93 was to my Eye specialist the other day . A good report and I am so grateful as I do not sit more than a few minutes until I pick up something to read. Living alone I am so happy that now I can take all the time I wish and read my Bibles….I love to compare the translations…I was one of those when cleaning house had a duster in one hand and a book in the other…..

    • You are amazing Mary Helene. Still able to read, write and enjoy literature in your 90s. I hope I can be like you. I loved the imagine of you with a duster in one hand and a book in the other. I will have to try that cleaning technique…sounds like fun! Thanks so much for taking time to comment. I always love hearing from you.

  6. Oh you know I can’t live without my books soul sista 🙂 I remember you getting all those La Chat boys to read and write about sports when they were readaphobic (we academics enjoy making up new words). My yoga training taught me that reading was meditation; a time to switch off, tune in and have a moment of stillness. We need rest, we need activity, but to ground and centre ourselves we all need these stillness moments each and every day. Love watching my girls read for pleasure and their favourite ones at the moment are The Gallagher Girls and The Morganville Vampires. I am on the last book of the Auel series… The Land of the Painted Caves, and enjoying an anthropological trip back in time to when Homo sapiens came into being. Words are my saviour at all times of my life 🙂 …miss you and lots of love, Rach xx

    • I love your response Rach. “Words are my savior at all times of my life,” too. I like how you tie it in with yoga and meditation and time to switch off and appreciate the stillness. Gosh, I remember how you taught me yoga and how to slow down and breath. I also remember you said your dad’s house was filled with books. I ask my English students what will a doctor tell you should do if you are feeling down? Answer…write down your feelings and get out and move. Writing cleanses the emotions, sport energizes the body, and reading calms the soul. Miss you dearly, my soul sista!

  7. Early reading memories: Reading Dr. Seuss and Berenstain Bears to my dad after the dishes were done. Then after getting ready for bed, he’d read Hans Christian Anderson fairy tales.I devoured comic books and cereal boxes as a youngster, so don’t discount graphic novels as motivating tools to scaffold struggling readers. Best part of the school day: not recess. Teacher read-aloud time. I love that my kids always have a book nearby and share recommendations. Now I read Pride and Prejudice once a year and have become hooked on Louise Penny Mysteries set in Montreal. Little Free Library! Our school built one with a bench nearby, and kids take out books to read while waiting for a parent pick up. Yes, a real paper book, not smart phone!
    Does anyone else love the smell of the children’s section of their library?:<)

    • Oh Amy, you are so well suited for you work teaching the little ones. You have remained a child at heart and that is why I loved living with you in college because you embraced every day like a new adventure. Dr.Seuss and Berenstain Bears were at the top of my fav list. Do you remember the Boxcar Children? I should have mentioned comic books in my blog. We devoured those Archie comics every time we took a long road trip somewhere. Bet you love reading to that beautiful little granddaughter. Kudos to your school for building a Little Free Library!

  8. Reading is free…and requires no batteries or charging. I’m grateful my mother read to me, and I read to my children, too. Now I have the pleasure of reading to my grandchildren. Your suggestions are excellent.

    • Yes, both my grandma and my mom read to me as a child and one of the joys of reading to my own children was reliving the happy memories of my childhood.

  9. I’m blessed to have grown up in a home where books were treasured, and I passed that along to my own son. I read to him EVERY night, even after he could read on his own, but it wasn’t until the Harry Potter series came out that I knew for sure I had raised a reader! Reading online is well and good, I suppose, but nothing beats curling up with a good, thick book on a rainy or snowy day, cup of hot tea nearby!!

    • Part of the joy of motherhood was reading to my children. I savored it especially since it was the only time they sat still. Hope you have some good reads tucked away for winter.

  10. I’m so excited that my granddaughter has finally started to love reading. She finally found a book that interested her. As for me, once I finish one book, I start another one.

    • Janie, I look forward to sharing my love of reading with grandkids one day. I usually have 3 or 4 books going at one time and keep them safely tucked under my bed.

  11. Yes, yes, yes – books everywhere, please! Rotate the titles, talk about books, and most of all, give kids a chance to relax and READ! My life without books is unimaginable!

    • Great advice Jennifer. Let me know if you have any other ideas on how to get kids to read. I agree that a life without books is unimaginable and would be unbearable.

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