|Metro Newspaper Services|
The Harry Potter books may have ignited teen reading, but as of last year, more than 60 percent of middle and high school students are scoring below proficient in reading achievement, according to a report by Alliance for Excellent Education.
"Teen literacy is a huge problem in the United States. Its 15-year-olds rank 14 among developed nations in reading behind Poland, Estonia and Iceland," said Rhiannon Paille, 27, author of a new fantasy novel for teens, "Flame of Surrender," and an advocate for teen literacy. "Kids need strong reading skills if they hope to graduate from high school. And they really need it to plan for college -- 59 percent of jobs in the U.S. today require some postsecondary education, compared to 28 percent in 1973."
What's a parent to do?
The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends reading to children as young as 6 months old on a daily basis. This will set them on a path to learning reading skills such as phonics, vocabulary and reading comprehension.
When reading to infants, consider small, chunky board books that babies can grip, and do not be in a rush to read the story through. Take time to stop and talk about the pictures with your little one. Point out similarities such colors and shapes or people and things familiar to the baby. If you really want their attention, sing the text or read the words in a different voice.
Lift-the-flap books offer parents a wonderful opportunity to engage baby by playing a round of peek-a-boo with the flaps.
Books that feature textures babies can touch and feel lead to a better understanding of words such as soft or bumpy.
As for older children (12-18), the best way to boost their literacy is to get them reading something, anything, they’re interested in.
|2011-Lionsgate still from "Hunger Games."|
Look for book-to-film adaptations. If they're excited to see a movie such as "Hunger Games" or "The Avengers," which are two soon-to-be released movies, check to see if the film is based on a book or series of books. "Hunger Games" is based on a series of books by Suzanne Collins about a futuristic society, while "The Avengers" features heroes from Marvel comic books. If they enjoy the movie, chances are that's enough to get a nonreader curious about the books. "This is another especially good hook for boys," Paille said.
Share in their experience by reading the same book. Numerous book clubs were born when parents and their children started reading stories about Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, as did many after the launch of the "Twilight" series. "Your teen may not be ready for a formal book club, but discussing the pacing of 'Hunger Games' can further their interest in reading and make for some interesting conversation on the way to karate class or soccer practice. And don't be afraid to nudge with comments like, "Oh, you haven't gotten to that part yet? It's really good."
What is your nonreader interested in? What kind of video games does he or she enjoy? Some of the more popular games have spawned books that could be introduced to them such as Halo, EverQuest, ElfQuest and Gears of War. What about the gaming guides? Even these are filled with interesting text and graphics, which players read to unlock clues that enable them to advance in the game. If they love to skateboard -- pick up a magazine that's all about their sport. It's a start.
The point is to get them reading -- as it helps build comprehension skills and vocabulary. If novels are a stretch, consider starting off with good magazines with shorter articles suited for distractible adolescents such as 'Sports Illustrated,' 'People,’ ‘Seventeen' or 'PC Gamer.'
"When you're out shopping, think about what they're interested in and pick up something just for them," Paille said. "Sometimes, it's as simple as putting the right reading materials right into their hands."
This is my life. It is my one time to be me. I want to experience every good thing -- Maya Angelou