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Apr 27 / Audra Jackson

Reading Motivation Reminder: Interest Means Something (G6)

Audra Jackson

Children enjoy fun. Really, though, who doesn’t?  When did adults stop recognizing fun as a utility for inspiring children to participate in positive activities (read: activities adults want them to participate in)? As adults perhaps we think to ourselves that reading is educational and education is not fun, thus we must make the children read or they never will! This is antiquated thinking at its best and completely free of any imagination or creativity! When we completely ignore the fun and interest factor when it comes to kids and reading we lose track of our long-term literacy goals. We don’t just want children to be able to read, we want them to be readers.

Motivating children via the fun factor may take patience and one cannot expect instant gratification. It takes planning and time and an active interest in who children are (as a group and individually) to appeal to the interest zone of their energetic minds.  Incentive based reading could be a first choice, with reading games that require children to read a certain number of books or a certain genre as part of a fun activity. How about book bingo?

Not only are you giving the child an option to choose what they would like to read (with only broad categories to guide them) you’re also creating a fun game for them to play which rewards them for reading. For many kids reading in and of itself is not a reward, it’s a chore. Making it worthwhile means they’re getting the hours of practice they need to be good at this skill called reading. Allowing them to choose means that they are learning how to navigate the world of books on their own, which will help build their confidence in their own book choices. Sometimes children don’t read because they don’t know what to read. They don’t know what they’ll like and feel intimidated by the options. Building their confidence while at the same time allowing them to participate in trial and error regarding genres and stories they like will help grow a kid who is sure of themselves when they take a book in hand. That may be half the battle.

But aside from incentives you could just remove books from the equation altogether! Gasp! Well, at first. Engage children’s interests, even if they aren’t book related. Host a gaming club at the library that will allow kids to play all of their favorites. Board games, computer games, video games. You name it! How does appealing to video game interests help reading? Well,  There is a book somewhere out there that covers every child’s particular hobby or fascination. Even a child who prefers videogames to anything may scramble for a chance to get their hands on a strategy guide!

Why try to force a child, whose mind is awash with PORTAL strategies ,to read a book on gardening? You wouldn’t. In fact, that sounds absurd. Why? Well, because gardening and PORTAL are so completely different. You wouldn’t catch a librarian (hopefully) trying to persuade a digital enthusiast to read “Tips on Pruning Bushes” because it’s enriching and gardening is a “more worthwhile pastime”. So why are we trying to force classics and Newbery winners on children who have zero interest in the topics of these works?

Children may surprise you and, when given an opportunity and the necessary tools (such as guidance, not totalitarian commandments), forge their own way. Perhaps eventually a kid whose only previous interest was in the strategy guide pictures will suddenly feel like reading some of the written suggestions. Then perhaps, once they’ve finished the entire read, they’ll seek something more. Skyrim could lead to a dedicated Fantasy enthusiast and MineCraft may inspire a child to grab up books on architecture, engineering, or game programming. Waiting and watching to see where the roots take hold is the patient part. It may be safe to say, though, that engaging children in fun and games to promote reading makes up for the waiting. Give it a try.