By Emily Stevenson
You want your child to read. You know they should be reading. You may be a bookworm yourself, and you want your child to discover the same joy of getting lost in a story or of learning new facts in a narrative nonfiction.
But then there’s the iPad. Upbeat music, addicting games, the allure of friends on social media, only a fingertip touch away. Do print books stand a chance against this digital onslaught? Librarians across the state think so.
Photo courtesy of Richland Library
“Children want real books,” says Heather McCue, from Richland Library Main Children’s Room in Columbia. “eBooks will suffice for most readers and provide benefits for readers with learning differences, but the majority of children want to hold a book in their hands. A traditional book is an experience that can’t be replicated.”
Though some say that reading on a tablet is better than not reading at all, children learn more than just the story from reading.
“Studies say that children comprehend and retain information from traditional print better than they do from a tablet or other device, and they sleep better after having read from print versus reading from a screen,” says Karen Allen, Youth Services Manager for the Greenville County Library System. “Children are tactile learners so holding the book and turning the pages helps them to connect more with the book too.”
Pam Cadden, Children’s Programming Coordinator for the Charleston County Public Library, agrees.
“They will learn that, at least in English, we read left to right, top to bottom,” she says. “Children develop their fine motor skills as they learn to turn the pages of a book.”
Still, children are naturally drawn to electronics. Setting technology limits is critical in encouraging a reader.
“Model responsible technology use for your children and put limits and boundaries on their technology use,” says McCue. “Media consumption is easy. We fall into using too much media without even realizing it. Limits and boundaries on media allow children time to play, spend time with family and read.”
Photo provided by CCPL
Despite the pervasive influence of digital media, libraries continue to highlight the importance of traditional books. This summer alone, CCPL offered more than 600 programs, including interactive storytimes, children’s performer events and homegrown programs, such as book clubs, therapy dogs, hands-on craft and STEAM programs.
One program, Flow Circus, features a world-class juggler who performs for children while explaining that he learned to juggle from books he read in the library as a child.
“It almost never fails that after the program, we have children wanting to check out books on juggling and performing other skill toys,” says Cadden.
Another way local libraries get real books in children’s hands is by making them easy to find and take home. Richland Library, for instance, offers tailored book recommendations to children and their parents.
“We know that families will take home more books if we make it easy for them,” says McCue. “Our staff create engaging displays and pull stacks of books for families.”
CCPL offers storytime themed kits, which include eight books, two related interactive toys, rhymes and a puppet for imaginative play or the retelling of stories.
Photo provided by CCPL
“The kits put the tools we use for our storytimes at the library in the hands of the parent to use in their own home at their most convenient time,” says Cadden. “Reading and sharing story experiences can become a great family time activity.”
The community aspect of reading -- discovering new books with parents, grandparents, teachers, classmates, or caregivers -- is a big part of reading for youngsters.
“Children crave connection,” says McCue. “Offering spaces that allow them to connect with parents, grandparents or other children truly keeps them engaged.”
Even more important, however, is for children to see their parents and caregivers reading. As a parent it may be nearly impossible to find a few minutes to sit down and read, but doing so sets an incredible example, particularly for reluctant readers.
“If you want to grow a reader, let them see you reading books, magazines or newspapers,” says McCue. “If you love books and reading, your children probably will, too.”
“Parents need to be setting the example,” she says. “If children see their parents in the habit of reading, they will want to read more.”
But even if you’re modeling perfect reading behavior, some kids may still need a nudge. Often, a reluctance to read is simply because your child hasn’t yet found something he or she enjoys.
Photo from Greenville County Library System
“If your child says he doesn’t like books, try nonfiction books on subjects he likes, biographies, or graphic novels,” says Allen. “There’s something for everyone, but sometimes it takes a while to find the right fit.”
Sometimes the “right fit” doesn’t look like what parents want, or even expect.
“Allow your child to read whatever piques their interests, says McCue. “You might hate Goosebumps, but this series is a gateway to your child becoming a reader.
“On that note, I would make a plea to parents---graphic novels are ‘real books,’ “ adds McCue. “If these books are what your child wants to read, please let them. If they want to read all of 50+ Magic Tree House books, check them out and take them home.”
Need some suggestions? Check out these books recommended by librarians, as well as some brand-new titles soon to be released.
, by Michael Rex (available Aug. 14)
*Books that are starred are part of a series. If your child enjoys them, there are others available!