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Let ’em read what they want | Reading tips from a librarian

Summer vacation is here, and it’s a great time to encourage your kids to read. Kids who read consistently are less likely to experience the brain dump known as the “Summer Slide.” So just how do you keep them reading?

The simplest answer is this: let them read what they want. Novels, comic books, poetry, audio books, cereal boxes and picture books are all forms of reading.

There is a scene that plays out in the library every summer, more times than I care to count. Here is a variation of that conversation.

A mother drags in a sullen kid. “She needs to read a classic,” the mother states, then shoots a warning look at her daughter. The girl sighs and rolls her eyes in the universal sign for Suffering From Ignorant Parents.

“What kinds of books do you like to read?” I ask, hoping to start some kind of dialogue to recommend appropriate books. On a good day, the kid will perk up and try to answer.

“Adventure!” she will say.

Or romance.

Or, heaven forbid, graphic novels.

In that hopeful, suspended moment, the teen and I make eye contact and I begin a mental list of books that would be a good fit. Not one of them is a dusty classic. Well-written, yes, but not a classic by mom’s definition. This is the point where a parent interrupts.

“I’m tired of you reading that garbage. You need to read something good. A classic.”

I don’t gamble much, but I can tell you what the mom is holding in her arms, without even looking. As she is strong-arming her child to read “a classic,” she’s clutching a tall stack of romance novels. There’s nothing wrong with romance novels. They could just as easily be magazines, sci-fi or troll-painting books. The point is, Mom gets to read what she wants. Any kid will immediately pick up on the unfairness of the situation.

Not every book your child reads this summer will be a classic. But a well-timed fart joke in the pages of a book will show them that reading can bring joy for the rest of their lives.

The Summer Reading Program officially kicked off on June 1. Children and teens can pick up reading logs at any KCLS branch. Check out the prizes at www.kcls.org.

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