HOW TO TALK TO KIDS ABOUT BOOKS

I spent a lot of years as an English and reading teacher of adolescents and I have to say from my experiences in front of those hormonal darlings that… getting kids to talk about books is more than your average challenge. (It smacks of those dreaded school assignments known as The Book Report.)

I stood in front of the stacks of my favorite bookstore earlier today, contentedly jotting down titles to add to my far-too-large list of wanna-reads, when I overheard a couple of moms chatting about their kids and books.

“I think if I could get him to talk about what he’s reading for school, I might be able to talk him into reading more,” said one mom, “or at least enjoy it more.”

I spent a lot of years as an English and reading teacher of adolescents and I have to say from my experiences in front of those hormonal darlings that this mom was right on the money. I also know from those experiences that getting kids to talk about books is more than your average challenge. (It smacks of those dreaded school assignments known as The Book Report.)

Here are some of the questions I raised during the one-on-one book talks I held with my students. Note: Some of these require that you know something about the book. If you’ve not read it, go to www.amazon.com, enter the title in the search box, and read the blurb. It’ll give you a starting point. (Parents told me at conferences that this worked for them as long as the conversations were casual. You know…a ride in a car or on a bike.)

And for heaven’s sake, listen to the answers. (No one likes being lectured to, and doing so is the kiss of death for any reader.)

A few conversation starters:

~ I see you’re reading (insert title here). What do you think is going to happen next?

~ Why?

~ Do you think (name of character) is going to get into trouble?

~ What would you have done in the same situation?

~ If Offspring saw the film based on the book, or vice versa, ask how he/she compares the two. Which is better? Why?

~ Assuming Offspring has finished the book, did he/she predict the ending?

~ And my favorite: Wow! If you liked that one, you ought to try XYZ. (Again, this is  good stopping point.)

Ultimately, the very best way to encourage your kids to read and even talk about what they’re reading, is to let them see you read. Magazines, newspapers, even the back of the cereal box; it’s all good.

And my last piece of advice: Please, please don’t become the woman I met at Barnes and Noble. She was in an obvious conundrum, talking to herself while trying to decide on a book for a middle-school nephew. “Maybe I can help,” I said. “I teach that age group. I can give you some great titles.”

“Oh,” she said with a frustrated sigh, “I don’t know. Maybe I’ll look for something else. He already has a book.”

Author: Judy Westergard

Retired English teacher, self-taught painter, inveterate reader and still lovin' my Kindle!

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