How to Get Your Kid to be a Fanatic Reader

 

 

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(CNN) -- You're reading CNN.com, so maybe this isn't a stress-inducing worry in your house, but for too many kids in this country, reading is a dirty word. Fortunately, we know exactly whom we have to talk to in order to start a much-needed intervention.

Sorry, moms and dads, but it's your job -- not the schools' -- to find books to get your kids reading and to make sure they read them.

Here's some good news: This can often be as easy as teaching children to ride a two-wheeler or to throw a baseball. Case in point: When our son, Jack, was 8, he wasn't a gung-ho reader. Now, I'm sure my wife, Sue, and I have made a half-million mistakes raising Jack, but during that eighth summer of our stewardship, we did something right: We told him he didn't have to mow the lawn (hooray!), but he was going to read every day (boo).

James Patterson

We then told Jack we were going to help him find books we promised he would like: the Mom-and-Dad "Reading Can Be a Joy" Guarantee. We picked out "The Lightning Thief," a book in the "Warriors" series, "A Wrinkle in Time," "Al Capone Does My Shirts," a novel from my own "Maximum Ride" series, and a few others. By the end of the summer, Jack had read half a dozen books that he loved, and his reading skills had improved dramatically.

Here's a simple but powerful truth that many parents and schools don't act on: The more kids read, the better readers they become.

The best way to get kids reading more is to give them books that they'll gobble up -- and that will make them ask for another. Yes, it's that simple. 1 + 1 = 2. Kids say the No. 1 reason they don't read more is that they can't find books they like. Freedom of choice is a key to getting them motivated and excited. Vampire sagas, comics, manga, books of sports statistics -- terrific! -- as long as kids are reading. Should they read on e-tablets? Sure, why not? How about rereading a book? Definitely. And don't tell them a book is too hard or too easy. "Great Expectations"? Absolutely. "Finnegans Wake"?Well, maybe not. And remember, books can be borrowed free at libraries.

Some schools and school systems are on top of the reading problem. Is yours?

Many schools around the country are successful at getting kids reading. That raises the obvious question: How come so many schools aren't?

There are terrific models for success with reluctant readers, but many school systems and state governments need to set aside their "not invented here" and "we have more important problems than education" attitudes.

The Drop Everything and Read program is a brilliant learning tool used by more than a thousand schools. Drop Everything and Read schools devote one period a day to kids -- and their teachers -- doing nothing but reading, and mostly reading what they want to. The results can be dramatic.