4 Jan 2011

How do we get kids to read?

These days the national media here in Denmark have been focusing quite a bit on the fact that Danish kids are generally not very good at reading. Something which seems to be closely related to the fact that many kids state that they do not like to read. It has also been reported that the books on the curriculum often date back to when the children's parents were children and that there is a distinct lack of new books available to the children.
We all know that to be really good at something you need to be driven by a passion or at least an interest or a liking. So how do we get kids to read more and better? In my mind it is obvious: we give them access to good books!

When I was in school - 15 years ago - I very early discovered the joys of reading. No thanks to the school though, as the encouragement primarily came from my home and from the books that parents and family gave me. The stuff we read in school was honestly fairly dull at best and utterly excruciatingly bad at worst.
So if I could advise the teachers and educators out there, here are the books that I think they should let kids read:

The Harry Potter series by :
A modern classic. The magic of HP is not only related to wands, incantations and flying broomsticks. There is a magic in the writing itself, the magical universe that unfolds itself as you read and envelopes you in another world. I know people whose joy of reading was sparked by Harry Potter - that is true magic if you ask me.

The Alanna series by Tamora Pierce:
This is the coolest fantasy-history series ever. I have read it over and over and it never fails to enthrall me. It is the story of the girl Alanna who wants to be a knight and who therefore disguises herself as a boy and enters court life. Here she makes friends with royalty and thieves and gain enemies that seek to destroy her and the people she loves. A fantastic series set in a medieval environment that will catch imaginations of girls and boys alike.

The Shamer series by Lene Kaaberbol
This is a much celebrated fantasy series about Dina who has inherited powers that she fears. She is a Shamer who can unmask the soul’s darkest secrets and crimes.
When Dina's mother disappears, Dina travels to the House of the Ravens with the stranger, Drakan, to find her mother. This is a series that will capture boys and girls alike.

Pippi Longstocking by Astrid Lindgren
This book is a classic and albeit it is not a modern book, I think it will still appeal to modern children. Pippi is the original cool kid. Lives on her own with a monkey and a horse and you do not want to mess with her. She is the girl that all kids want to be friends with. And read about!

The Princess Diaries seris by Meg Cabot
Yes it has been made into two Disney movies starring Anne Hathaway and yes they are no masterpieces. The Princess Diaries series are not literary jewels but they have the ability to fascinate girls. Just imagine being princess Mia: a normal, dorky, geeky girl who turns out to be a princess and then has to struggle with princess lessons and people who want to trade on her status. Not really a politically correct choice but tween girls love it!

Otto is a Rhino by Ole Lund Kirkegaard
Not a new book but one that has stood the test of time. It is the story of a drawn rhino coming to life and creating havoc and it will definitely make childrens imaginations run wild.

What would you encourage children to read to get a passion for books?


  1. I teach seven to eight year olds in the UK and in my experience, most children will enjoy reading if the books are good and exciting. I read mine Roald Dahl stories (they loved The Twits), Horrid Henry and the Dirty Bertie series. I also take them to the school library once a week and teach them how to decide whether they will like a book or not - looking at the cover, the writing on the back, deciding whether it is too hard/easy etc.

    Having said all that, I think parents have the biggest role to play in whether or not children enjoy reading. If they see that their parents enjoy it, and mum or dad makes time to read with them every day, they will grow up to like reading.

  2. Oh yes Roald Dahl - such a great choice! I really loved those books as well and they are also classics that withstand time.

  3. We have the same problem here in England. Love or hate JK Rowling at least Harry Potter got children interested. The same with Stephenie Meyer's Twilight series though this, unlike HP which was enjoyed by both sexes, seems to be one strictly for the girls and to be honest I'm concerned at how young some of the girls are - I don't think the books are really suitable for our younger readers and especially not the last one which was quite horrific in places.

  4. I think it is same all over the kids nowadays seem to have such a electronic saturated world ,that reading seems to come second best ,I always think there is less for boys to read these days and know here in uk it is a real problem boys not reading ,I always give family members with kids books for christmas to encourage them ,all the best stu

  5. @Petty Witter: I agree, HP is much more suitable for children and younger girls. I am not too impressed with the females being presented in Twilight. Bella is such a wimp.

    @Stu: I am the same - books are my favourite present for children, or audiobooks if necessary.

  6. In my experience as a high school teacher (US), I find that students love to read books that are age-appropriate and reflect what's going on in their lives. I find it necessary to be a reader myself in order to inspire students to read. Kids love that they can come to me for a book recommendation any time they want. Reading classics does not make one love reading (usually). But, if you become a reader as a child/ teen, you may grow up to be an adult/ teen reader who loves literature.

    Great post!

  7. I got my love of reading from my mom. She took me to the library quite often as a child. I guess that would be the best way to get children interested in reading. Updating those must read lists would surely help as well.