The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

June 6, 2013

Reading can become a great summer habit with right suggestions

By Joe Hadsall
Globe Features Editor

JOPLIN, Mo. — Reading is part of daily activities for Shanon Cooper and her children Kaya and Kohl. The three were at Joplin Public Library Tuesday to pick out a few new books -- Kaya, 8, had her eye on a series of books about fairies and Kohl, 10, had a few football stories chosen.

"Earlier, they each had a chapter left on the books they were reading," Cooper said. "So I had them finish it up, then we'd come to the library to get some more."

Reading is important to Cooper, and she wants her kids to enjoy it as much as possible, she said. That means adding it to her kids' routines requires a deft touch of suggestion and direction, rather than outright ordering.

Cooper is one of the parents who does it right, said Jeana Gockley, a children's librarian at the Joplin library. Her experience as a librarian has shown her what not to do as a mother.

One of the best ways to encourage reading, Gockley said, is to do it yourself.

"My son is a year and a half old," Gockley said. "He flips through his board books as I read magazines. He's doing what I'm doing."

Cooper feels the same way.

"I eat vegetables, I exercise and I read," Cooper said. "If I want my kids to love doing those things, then I have to do them, too."

There are plenty of other ways parents can get their kids excited about reading:

¥ Let them choose according to their own interests: Cooper said that as kids age, reading for the sake of reading may not sound fun.

"When they get to a certain age, they have to read what they are interested in, or the habit will die off," Cooper said.

Gockley said parents should keep track of their kids' favorite books or series. That way, librarians can recommend similar titles to maintain kids' interest.

And what may have interested a parent as a child doesn't mean their children will feel the same way.

"Don't make them read what you thought was awesome as a child, because they may not like it," Gockley said. "That's one thing I see a lot as a librarian. Let them pick something fun for themselves."

¥ Join a club: The library recently kicked off its summer reading program, which awards prizes and bonuses for kids who read enough books. Gockley said that the competitive aspects can actually motivate a few children to read.

"Some of the kids who don't like to read, if you make it a contest or game, that helps motivate them," Gockley said. "We think our summer reading program is a lot of fun."

¥ Together time: A common reading time and place can help family members bond, Gockley said. Although it seems counterintuitive to spend family time doing individual things, there are ways to make reading a family activity.

"Parents and kids can set aside some time to read a book together," Gockley said. "Reading as a group works, or even just sitting on the couch together, reading separately."