As a teacher, I’ve had various conversations with parents about how to get their children engaged in reading. The flip side of that conversation comes when a student is interested in reading, but won’t venture outside a specific genre. Now, at first, this might not seem like a concern. If the student is reading, isn’t that enough? Not quite. Just as parents encourage their children to eat a healthy, balanced diet, it is important to encourage a balanced “diet” of literature. This can be a challenge, especially if the child is reluctant to venture out of a genre that they believe gives them all the literary challenge needed. Below are some suggestions about how to encourage your children to read, not just in one genre, but from a rich variety of literature.
In my classroom, I try to leave time for students to express to me why they did or did not enjoy a particular reading assignment. I don’t let them stop with “it was good,” or “it was boring,” but I challenge them to articulate why the book, poem, play etc. did or did not make a positive impression. Parents can use this technique at home. If you find out the “why” you’ll be able to encourage your child towards a different type of literature that revolves around similar themes or that has similar connections. For example; if your child loves historical fiction, then maybe suggest an age appropriate biography of a favorite historical character.
Be involved with book choices:
One parent spoke with me about a method she and her husband tried with their teenager who did not want to read anything but fantasy literature. They did not try to take fantasy away from her, but rather had her read in a “cycle” of a spiritual growth book (devotional, biography, biblical commentary), a literary classic, and then a book of her choosing from the genre she preferred. It allowed them to make suggestions, and gave them time to research or even read the book she chose from the fantasy genre.
It is a wonderful experience to bond with someone over a shared interest. If there is a
book that is close to your heart, be it a childhood favorite, a classic, or a nonfiction, suggest it to your child, and even read through it again at the same time so you can foster an atmosphere of discovery and discussion.
Not every new book will become a favorite:
…And that’s okay! What is important is that your child is encouraged to “try” new things even if they aren’t an instant favorite. If a book is just not working, or if it is really not enjoyable to your child, you can try something else. You can discuss why the book did not work, and then forge ahead. There is a wide landscape of beautiful literature to explore. The important thing is to encourage exploration with spiritual discernment.
Lead by example:
It is easy for me to get into a rut where I only read what’s in my comfort zone, but I’ve found that when I push myself to read different types of literature (say a book of poetry, or a historical nonfiction), that’s when I’ve grown both in my intellectual and personal life. I strive to keep a good “diet” of the types of literature I read, and I in turn discuss that with my students. This can be a fantastic experience when tried at home. Maybe you pick a book that is outside your comfort zone and discuss the experience with your child. If they see you leading by example, it will encourage them to follow suit.
*Images taken from amazon.com