Diane Frankenstein is the author of Reading Together: Everything You Need to Know to Raise a Child Who Loves to Read. Frankenstein has discovered the equation for helping children to love reading: Help them find an appropriate book, then talk with them about the story, and you will create children who read for pleasure and become lifelong lovers of reading.
Reading Together provides a wealth of strategies, book titles, and conversation topics to help children find what to read and then how to find meaning and pleasure in their reading. The main portion of the book is a compilation of 101 book titles that are divided into three categories—picture books, books for children in grades 2 to 5, and books for children in grades 4 to 6 and up. Each book recommendation has a two-page description that includes conversation starters, a list of subjects the story explores, a synopsis, questions about the story, a favorite quote or “souvenir” to take away, something to notice about the story, and related titles.
As a child, Frankenstein loved storytelling. As an adult, she discovered that her curiosity and love of learning became a “wonderful antidote to life’s doldrums.” When her sons were very small, she discovered William Steig’s Gorky Rises and realized how distinctive and extraordinary children’s books can be. At that moment she embarked on a mission to find brilliant, amazing, and unforgettable books for children.
Frankenstein explains that showing children they have something to say about the books they read helps them engage and connect with a story and helps them understand the stories better. She notes that children’s reading drops off after eight years, and that parents and grandparents can have a direct impact on getting kids to read. We need to become more, not less, involved as kids start reading independently. Kids say one of the main reasons they don’t read more is because they can’t find books they like. She concludes that if pleasure doesn’t drive reading, children don’t become readers.
The book offers 17 tips for helping children love what they read, including:
- Read the right book at the right time.
- Don’t interrupt the story with explanations or editorials.
- Don’t stop reading aloud to your children once they have mastered the ability to read on their own.
- Be creative and find other times in a day—not just bedtime—when reading can happen.
The book also offers 17 tips for practicing conversational reading, including:
- Start a conversation with a good question such as “what do you notice and what do you think?”
- Make personal connections to a story.
- Be patient and allow time for the child to think and respond.
- “What if” is a powerful tool to get your imagination working.
- Don’t settle for the obvious because this is how children develop critical thinking skills.
I used Frankenstein’s suggestions with my 7-year old granddaughter while reading Beatrices Goat by Page McBrier. Based on a true story about the work of Heifer Project International, the story tells about a girl in a small Ugandan village who is given a goat that changes her life. It was an uplifting and meaningful story that led to a wonderful conversation about charity, education, and even dreams for the future.