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Kids become lifelong readers for all kinds of reasons: A favorite book can capture a child's imagination, a teacher can spark a hunger for stories, and of course, parents can share their own passion for literature. If you want to help nurture your child's love of books, here are Common Sense Media's best tips for raising a reader.
Read aloud: This comes naturally to lots of new parents, but it's important to keep it up. For babies, toddlers, preschoolers, and kids in early grade school, it's wonderful to have a kid on your lap, snuggled next to you on the couch, or drifting off to sleep in bed as you enjoy picture books together. It's fine if your child wants to read the same book a hundred times -- your kid will remember the closeness as well as the story. And try nonfiction for those who are curious about pirates, Vikings, robots, castles, history, sports, biography, animals, you name it. Continue this even after your child can read on his own: Kids will hear the rhythm of the language, learn correct pronunciation and get to relax and just take it all in.
Savor the series: It's common for kids to become book lovers for life after getting hooked on a series. And there are lots of good ones that keep kids hungry for the next installment, such as: Ivy and Bean, Judy Moody for beginning readers; Harry Potter, A Series of Unfortunate Events, and the Percy Jackson series for middle graders.
Grab onto a genre: Kids go through phases of genres they're passionate about, from girl detectives to science fiction and fantasy. Don't get hung up on whether it's great literature. Be happy that your kid is devouring books one after the other.
Feed the favorite-author addiction: Once your kids finds a writer they love, they may want to read all of his or her books -- a great excuse for a trip to the library or an opportunity for book swapping among friends and classmates. Here are some good bets for favorites. Younger kids: Dav Pilkey (The Adventures of Captain Underpants), Beverly Cleary (Beezus and Ramona). Middle grade: Kate DiCamillo (Because of Winn-Dixie), Neil Gaiman (The Graveyard Book).
Count on the classics: Books are called classics because they continue to engage readers generation after generation. Good ones to try are the Dr. Seuss and Narnia books, Charlotte's Web, and The Secret Garden. Check out this list of Classic Books for Kids list to find more.
Find books that interest your kids: If your kid adores horses, try Black Beauty or any of the titles on this list of Best Horse Books. If he's wild about cars, trucks and trains, check out this list of Vehicle Books.
Funny is fine: Some parents wrestle with letting their kids read Captain Underpants, Diary of a Wimpy Kid, and other edgy humor books about kids getting in trouble. Talk to your kids about the content, but keep in mind that kids like these books not because they want to imitate the characters' actions but because they can live vicariously through their bad behavior. Humor is a great pathway to book loving.
Comics are cool: Graphic novels are among the hottest trends in children's publishing, and they can get kids hooked on reading. Kids may start with Squish and Babymouse and move on to Diary of a Wimpy Kid. But these series can also lead to more sophisticated fare such as Marzi and American Born Chinese. Find other titles in this list of Best Graphic Novels.
Make reading a family priority: Actions speak louder than words. Take your kids to the library once a week or once a month to get new books, make regular outings to your local bookstore, hunt for low-cost books at used bookstores or second-hand shops, and show kids that finding a good book is like a treasure hunt.
Fit reading into your lifestyle. Set aside time for reading only -- turning off the TV, computer and cell phone. Encourage focused reading time, either for independent reading or reading aloud. Take preschoolers to story time hours at libraries and bookstores. For older kids, a parent-kid book club can be fun. Read to kids at bedtime. Provide time and space for your kids to read for pleasure on vacation, after homework is done and on their own before bed. It could be habit-forming!