Ever have an “aha” moment after staring at the same problem for too long? Or crack up over a punchline minutes after scratching your head over what it meant?
That’s what kids feel when they go from being bored by a book to totally addicted. The moment they feel “in on it” is when they start to fall in love with a story. The question is, how do we get them there? Below are some practical tips on how to deepen your kid’s understanding of their books to make them more engaged, curious readers.
1. Skim first, commit later.
Even a single page can be a lot to take in, so comprehending all of the details, context, events and descriptions could (and sometimes should) need more than one pass. Lift the pressure by encouraging your kid to casually scan it first. It’ll give them a sense of the happenings, characters and tone before fully diving in, and it could sneakily hook them in the process. Tip: Free online summaries on sites like Wikipedia are a great way to dip their toes into a story before deciding to invest the time.
2. Look up unfamiliar terms & ideas.
Reading words and phrases you’ve never heard can make anyone’s eyes glaze over and take you out of the experience. So when your kid comes across new words and concepts, encourage them to look them up on their smartphone or tablet. They’ll get so much more out of the story—enjoyment included—when they know what they’re reading. And it’ll broaden their vocabulary and understanding of the world around them in the process.
3. Write stuff down.
Not only does note-taking help you retain what you’re reading, it also encourages extra interaction with the content. Give your kid a notebook to use as a reading journal. Here, they can write down questions, revelations they may have, and concepts and ideas they find interesting. Just the act of holding a pen or pencil can make them a more active reader. Check out this post for tips on how to help kids become better note takers.
4. Put yourself in the characters’ shoes.
Talk to your kid about what they’re reading and ask thoughtful questions to get them thinking about the characters’ motivations and emotions, such as: “What if this happened to you?” “How would you feel in this situation?” or “What would you do differently?” Ask them to think of a time in their lives where they may have felt a certain way or made similar choices. Thought-provoking discussions like these keep the stories in their minds long after they’ve put the book down. For more ideas on how to use this empathic approach to better connect your child with what they’re reading, check out our post: Reading & Empathy: A Bridge.
5. Act it out.
Participating in the story breathes life into what they’re reading. One way to do this is by taking turns reading out loud in silly or dramatic voices. Make it even more interesting by trying on different voices for each character and chatting about how using a different voice changes what you think of the character. Reader’s theater is another great way to practice, and you can find a ton of scripts by grade level here. You can have some fun with this type of roleplay off the page, too by acting out book scenes and sharing alternative versions of the plot.
6. Movie-fy it.
Instead of making books compete with movies and TV for your kid’s attention, why not show them how to experience reading in the same way? Encourage them to visualize what’s happening in their book and give it the cinematic treatment in their minds. You can help by asking them what they’re reading, and following it up with “if you could turn those events into a movie trailer, who would play the main characters? How would you bring it to life?”
7. Embrace fandom!
If your kid is into a certain book or series, find opportunities to dive deeper through other media, such as activity books and videos. Some examples include:
- Epic Originals Boredom Busters
- Enriching book-themed activity guides
- Character-inspired tutorials like this one for “My Pet Slime”
- Interactive workbooks like this one for “Rosie Revere, Engineer”
- Age-appropriate fan fiction: Read about the benefits here, and be sure to find a kid-safe platform
- Films and games based on their favorite stories
That’s a wrap! We hope these tips deepen your kid’s appreciation for their books, and for more on how to up the joy factor for reading, check out this post.