How To Keep (Or Get) Your Tween Reading!
March 11, 2019
This guest blog is by author Laney Nielson, winner of the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators’ first Cynthia Leitich Smith Writing Mentor Award and author of Peppermint Cocoa Crushes. Laney has been a supporter of and participant in Explore Horizons’ Writers Awards helping students across DFW to fall in love with writing. This year we got a chance to catch up with Laney at our Fearless Writers’ Nights, and she shared her top tips on how to get children reading!
Even for the most avid readers, reading can decrease during middle school. And for those who haven’t fallen in love with reading yet, it can be especially challenging to make it a priority. Tweens often have less time, more distractions and new interests. So what can you do to encourage your middle schooler to read?
Many tweens are interested in spending more time with their peers. So starting or finding a book club with in person meetings (a social event) can be a great motivator to read. During the middle school years, my daughters and I belonged to a mother-daughter book club. It was a wonderful opportunity to discuss books and to dive into important contemporary issues. (The moms learned a lot!) If you don’t want to start your own, check out local books stores and libraries to see what they’re offering.
Encourage your child and their friends to attend a book festival or an author event at a bookstore or library. Meeting an author and hearing them speak about their creative path can have a lasting impact on your child’s reading and writing.
If your tween is already on social media, encourage them to follow book bloggers and their favorite authors. Posting short reviews can be a great way to share their reading experience. At age thirteen, your child can open a GoodReads account, but until then, you might want to post for them. Maybe they would like to create reviews on Youtube or start a book blog? If they establish a following, they might receive advance reader copies from publishers for free!
So many great books are hitting the big and small screen. Encourage your child to read the book and watch the movie. Do this together or with a book club! Set a goal of finishing the book before you watch the movie. Then talk about the similarities and differences. Discuss the characters and analyze the casting decisions.
Just as tweens live with one foot in childhood and one in the teenage years, their book choices can also feel like they’re in an in between space. Depending on their reading level and maturity, they may have outgrown their favorite middle grade series, but aren’t quite ready for some of the themes of young adult or adult novels. Talking to a knowledgeable bookseller or librarian will help your tween navigate what’s next. Common Sense Media is another good resource. And remember, if your child is only interested in reading graphic novels or nonfiction on a particular topic that’s fine. Let them read what they want. They’re reading! If you are concerned about the content, read the book first and discuss your concerns with your child. Many contemporary books cover important topics that can be the perfect opening to an otherwise hard to start conversation.
Finally, like so many things, your tween is watching you and observing your habits. So, make sure they see you reading.
A former teacher, Laney Nielson now writes middle grade fiction. Her first novel Peppermint Cocoa Crushes is part of the Swirl Line for tween readers. Laney has a masters degree in education and is a trained literacy specialist. Learn more about Laney on her website.
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