The Love of Writing Came From Love of Reading
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by Riley Carney, author and literacy advocate. Read more about Riley after the post or on her website.
Encouraging Your Child To Write
Because I’m a teenager, a published author, and the founder and director of a nonprofit for children’s literacy, adults often ask me what they can do to get their kids to write. My childhood had an enormous impact on my love of writing so that’s an easy question for me to answer.
The love of writing comes from the love of reading. From the moment I was born (and before) my mom would read to me. We read together three to five times a day; I felt safe and happy, and that created extremely positive feelings about reading.
The best way for parents to encourage kids to read is to give them books that they actually enjoy reading. Parents should spend time with their kids at libraries and bookstores to find genres and authors that tweak their kids’ imaginations and make them excited about reading.
Often teachers and parents try to make kids read books that they think are good for them, but kids are frequently bored by those books and reading becomes a chore. For example, if you were a twelve-year-old boy, would you rather read the Percy Jackson series and the Harry Potter series, or would you rather read Pride and Prejudice?
That’s not to say that there’s not a place for the classics, especially in school, but pleasure reading should be gratifying. I’ve listed some authors and books below for various ages that are appealing to kids and are loaded with imagination, whimsy, and adventure. Your child may have other interests, but a little digging on your part should uncover a wealth of books to fit every child’s taste.
Reading is a significant trigger for a children’s and teen’s imaginations. If they read enough, they will eventually feel the urge to put their imaginary worlds onto the page, and they will begin to write. In addition to reading, there are other things a parent can do to trigger a child’s imagination:
- Play imaginary games and dress-up with your children. Even if you don’t feel comfortable participating yourself, be sure to have a box or closet full of old clothes and accessories. I had many stuffed animals when I was younger (okay, I still have themJ) and I used to make up very elaborate stories with them. We would have such grand adventures that it would take weeks for the animals to get from one side of my bedroom to the other side.
- Sit down together and make up an impromptu story together. You can begin by saying a sentence or two and then let your child finish the sentence and add another sentence. Going back and forth like this creates a fun, exciting story and nobody knows what will happen next!
- People watch together. Ask your child what he/she thinks the man with the plaid pants on standing three people ahead of you in line might have had for breakfast, why he picked those pants, why he keeps looking at his watch, and what is he late for? Your child can quickly begin to create a whole imaginary world involving him.
- Good movies are a wonderful way to trigger a child’s imagination. Movies like Toy Story and Bug’s Life for younger kids and Star Wars for older kids are a great example of how a little imagination can create whole new worlds. My older brother and I played imaginary Star Wars games frequently!
- Help your child build forts out of blankets and chairs or boxes and let them take a snack and some of their prized possessions in there with them. Before long, your child will be on an adventure, on a boat running from pirates, or a train snaking up a mountain peak, or hiding from an alien creature who wants to take them to Pluto.
- Have colored and plain construction paper, crayons, markers, scissors, glue, cardboard, Playdough, and packing tape on hand and easily accessible so that your child can draw, build, or mold their imaginary worlds, or at the very least, trigger the thoughts that might eventually become a story.
- Give your kids a really cool notebook/journal as a present but don’t tell them that they have to write in it, just let them use it for whatever they want to use it for. You’ll be surprised by what happens!
Reading Favorites For Children, Tweens, and Teens
For younger readers:
Anything by: Roald Dahl, Jerry Spinnelli, Louis Sachar, Kate DiCamillo, Beverly Cleary, Frances Hodges Burnett, Avi, and Lloyd Alexander.
Captain Underpants Books, The Magic Tree House Books, Diary of a Wimpy Kid books
For older readers:
The Harry Potter series by JK Rowling
The Percy Jackson series by Rick Riordan
The Artemis Fowl series by Eoin Colfer
The Mysterious Benedict Society series by Trenton Lee Stewart
The Merlin series by TA Barron
The Maximum Ride series by James Patterson
The Ranger’s Apprentice series by John Flanagan
The Redwall books by Brian Jacques
The Keys to the Kingdom series by Garth Nix
His Dark Materials series by Phillip Pullman
The Giver by Lois Lowry
The Pendragon series by DJ MacHale
The Heir series by Cinda Williams Chima
The Narnia Chronicles by CS Lewis
The Leven Thumps series by Obert Skye
Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card
The Hunger Games and Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins
Thanks so much to Riley Carney, the teenage author of The Reign of Elements YA Fantasy series and guest blogger on Imagination Soup today. Riley founded a non-profit called Breaking the Chain with the goal of eliminating illiteracy for children. Currently, she is focusing on a new program called Bookin’ It, which buys books for classrooms in underfunded and/or low-literacy schools in the United States.
Nicely written article. Keep up the excellent job you’re doing.
Wow, Riley…I want to meet you! I didn’t read a lot as a child, so it’s felt like more of a discipline becoming a “read for pleasure” person. So far for my 7 year old twin boys, it’s like breathing. We just finished the Narnia series (me reading) and are having a “Narnia” party even though I’m not sure yet what to do (except dress up and eat Turkish Delight). One of my sons who has great comprehension (can make connections in real life from messages in books we read even long ago). However, first grade has been a crisis year for one of my boys because he is struggling so much with reading and has attention problems (despite the fact that he can sit for 2 hours while I read to him). There have been so many tears and “It’s impossible.” He compares himself to his brother who is a very fluent reader. We just started the Percy Jackson series, and believe it or not, Rick Riordan and I went to the same high school; we had the same English teacher! I heard she still calls him when she finds grammar mistakes:) You probably know about how the series began–Rick making up stories for his son who had a learning disability and attention challenges. Hopefully, my son will connect with this. If you know of any other books that would speak to this challenge, I’d love to get your ideas. Thank you so much for this great post that I’m just now getting to!
It sounds like you’re doing a great job making reading an enjoyable experience for your sons!
I can’t think of any novels offhand that address ADD, but I will ask around and see what I can find out. Also, Melissa, who writes this blog is an education expert, and she would probably have some great thoughts/ideas on how to help your son. I’ll post something here as soon I find anything, but I would definitely talk to Melissa if I were you.
Thank you all for your support and for the great suggestions, Renata, Nancy, and Erin! I am very grateful. Melissa, I really appreciate you inviting me to guest post on Imagination Soup! I am the lucky one to have met you – you do so many amazing things for kids and literacy! Thanks for everything and hugs to you!!
Thank you all for sharing your comments on Riley’s wonderful post! I’m so lucky to know her in real life — wouldn’t you know, we met at the library! I’m hoping you’ll consider sharing your own expertise in a guest post?! My readers love to hear from authors and writers about reading, writing, books and such.
Thanks again, Riley, for such a well-written and thought out post. Hugs!!