I was that kid on the playground who always had a book in my hands. I was excited to do elaborate book reports and talk about the books we read and often disappointed by my classmates’ disinterest. I got teased for being a dork. This made me think I should be ashamed of doing the thing I loved the most. All I ever really wanted to do was read and make up stories and I seemed to be alone in this. When I heard a new word, I traced it in the air with my fingers, imagining it on the page and committing it to memory. This elicited more teasing. As a kid, I learned my love of books and stories made me weird. It wouldn’t be until college that I found my people: other readers and writers who spent hours poring over books.
I was usually reading books much more advanced than my peers, at a high school reading level by second or third grade. Teachers sometimes struggled to provide appropriate reading materials for me. I often read what I found on my parents’ nightstands, but no one in my class wanted to talk about “Little Women” or Jane Austen. Even though reading was an escape for me, it sometimes made me feel left out from the other kids, who groaned about having to read and skipped the homework.
What do you do with an advanced young reader? Here are a few tips.
- Let them read what they want. Books assigned in school might not be up to your young reader’s level or might bore them. Allow them to challenge themselves. Librarians can help find books that will stimulate and interest them. Don’t tell them a book is too advanced for them.
- Read books alongside them. Ask them to read aloud to you or, if they prefer to read solo, read the books they’re reading so you can have conversations about them, particularly if they’re intended for an older audience and may contain mature subjects or things they don’t yet know about. Don’t censor their reading, but open up a conversation about the books.
- Let them see you read. Young booklovers may, like me, be teased or feel alone in their love of reading. Others may tell them reading isn’t cool. If you show them that you love to read, too, they’ll feel validated. While most of my friends didn’t care about books the way I did, my mother read every day and chewed through a few novels each week. Our house was filled with books and trips to the library and bookstore yielded stacks of exciting new material. Show them that reading is fun and worth celebrating, not feeling ashamed of.
- Discuss the books they read. Ask them questions. Encourage them to think critically and engage in the material. Let them tell you all about it. My family tells me I could never shut up about my latest read and they patiently let me detail plots and twists at dinner. I’m grateful that they remained engaged, asked questions, and showed interest in what I was excited about.
- Praise them for reading. My brother was a reluctant reader. My parents established a plan where I would read books to him aloud. When he actually read a book on his own, they lauded him with praise, leaving me feel indignant. But I’d read three books that week! Why was he getting all the credit? It’s easy to celebrate reluctant readers for finishing an assignment and forget the accelerated readers, because they read all the time. But show them you’re proud of them, too.
Here are a few more tips from Scholastic to help encourage your avid reader.
Encouraging your child to love reading is one of the best ways to set them up for success and establish a lifelong habit of devouring books, which will stimulate their brain, help them destress, and allow them to explore new worlds.