There’s a lot of pressure on kids’ book authors. Why? Because educators and other experts love to go on and on about the importance of early reading experiences in “creating” readers for life, or, worse (pressure-wise), transforming reluctant readers into eager ones.
And lots of them seem to think it’s our responsibility to hook the kids and reel them in. “Your book ought to be SOooo compelling,” they say (or think!), “that even kids who don’t want to read it will have no choice, it’s that good.”
Now, I do believe that books are totally magical, but that’s an awfully high standard.
That’s an awful lot of pressure.
To take the pressure off, creating readers for life is a project that’s best assigned to a whole group of people, not just fobbed off on writers. Who can help with this important job?
- Older siblings
- Family friends
- … and yes, authors & illustrators
As you can see, it’s a package deal! We all have to work together to create not only fantastic books but…
- Warm, nurturing, fun early reading experiences
- Quiet places to sit and enjoy books
- Spare time to sit and enjoy books
- Role models who spend time alone with books
- An environment where books are accessible and easy to find
- An assortment of reading experiences: classics and new favourites, board books, picture books, chapters and yes, even good graphic novels.
It takes a village to raise a reader.
Here are two excellent books that can help give you some ideas about helping kids love reading FOR LIFE, written by two of the leading advocates for children’s literature in the English language today. If you haven’t at least glanced through them already, you should.
- Mem Fox, Reading Magic: Why Reading Aloud to Our Children Will Change Their Lives Forever. An Australian educator, Mem Fox is a children’s writer herself, author of one of my favourite early rhyming books, Where is the Green Sheep?
Jim Trelease, The Read-Aloud Handbook: Seventh Edition, started out as an artist and journalist before he turned to education, giving parents and teachers a head start in reading to their kids with this essential reference book. The first section talks about WHY you must read aloud and HOW to do it best. The second section, continually updated (this is the seventh edition), is a list of his top picks in every single category of children’s book.
These are the two most important that I can think of. If you have other recommendations, I’d be thrilled to share them.
What are some of the other ingredients you can think of for creating “readers for life”? What can writers do to make their book parts of this recipe for success?