For those of us who love to read, it’s hard to imagine not wanting to pick up a book and dive into a new world or browse through an article and learn something new. But a barrier to these invaluable experiences does exist for young readers, and it seems be about knowing where to start.
For young readers, libraries and bookstores can seem overwhelming, assigned reading may be a little dull and they might not like to read about the things their best friend or siblings find interesting. Every child takes a different road to reading, so it’s not surprising when parents get stuck trying to help their kids find the joy in it.
To get un-stuck, look in an unexpected place—screen time.
At PBS KIDS, we view our online series, games and apps as potential catalysts for learning, engaging children in a subject they love, so they can then take learning off-screen and into a book they’ll potentially enjoy. We also strive to develop content that makes kids want to learn more with shows that help kids learn the fundamentals of literacy like letter recognition, rhyming, sight words and vocabulary.
That excitement for learning and discovery, and the enjoyment of characters, storytelling and topics are tools you can use to help encourage your child’s reading. How does that work?
Let your child’s interests be your guide.
Web series and games that feature characters or topics that your child loves are the perfect place to start. If you start with an area that sparks your child’s curiosity, they are much more likely to be engaged with the content.
Using your child’s interests as a launch point for reading is the most common approach, because it makes sense. The shows and games your kids enjoy provide valuable insight into their interests. PBS KIDS shows and digital games cover a wide variety of topics that kids are excited to engage with, from stories about families, neighbors and friendships to animal adventures, math mysteries, outdoor exploration, outer space and creative expression.
If you’re not sure what sparks your child’s interest, ask them to share a favorite game, program or movie with you and talk about what they like best about it. You may find you know just the story to followup on that experience (or you can make a quick list and ask your librarian for a little help).
Comedy, Drama, Adventure? Everyone has their preference.
PBS KIDS shows vary widely in storytelling style to keep our programming smart and funny. Some of our series offer adventure, others feature mysteries or fairy tales, some are very comedic and others focus more on interpersonal stories.
Your child’s preferences can give you a hint about the types of reading that could capture their interest. A kid who loves the comedy of Odd Squad might be interested in a big book of jokes or odd facts, while a child who has a fondness for the creative expression embodied in Pinkalicious & Peterrific might love to try out a play, song book or poetry (and plan a performance).
Don’t forget, hands-on learning can still include reading.
Your child may be more of a “doer” than a “reader,” and that’s great. If your kid is interested in building, cooking or playing games and sports, you can use those hands on activities as a road to reading. Every recipe must be read, games have instructions, experiments have guides and sports have fan magazines.
Informational text is a critical part of literacy and kids who are inclined toward “doing” are primed to read, learn and do. You can also use your child’s active inclination to encourage literacy skills by asking them to journal, scrapbook and record their real-life activities. PBS KIDS apps like Nature Cat’s Great Outdoors can get them started on recording their everyday adventures.
Make it a family activity!
One thing you’ll notice about PBS KIDS shows is that family is a big part of many of our series. From Arthur, Dinosaur Train and Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood to Pinkalicious & Peterrific and Ready Jet Go! the families in PBS KIDS programs work together and share in the fun of learning.
You can invite your kids into reading by making it a family activity. Select a weekly poem to share, choose a book to read aloud together, create a family book club, designate family reading time and share your family’s together time with family members through written letters or social media posts.
Every kid can find fun in reading—they’ll just find that connection to it in different ways.
You can find more tips and ideas to spur your young reader at PBS parents. Then, join PBS KIDS this summer as they explore reading and learning with the PBS KIDS Summer Learning campaign, which offers tools, tips and ideas that encourage kids aged two-to-eight and their families to join in on a PBS KIDS version of the Great American Read.