"The solution to fixing the nation's reading problem is pretty simple," says L.A. Miller, author of the new science-fiction and fantasy YA book series the Quests of Shadowind, which includes "Sky Shifter," "The Grounding Stone,” and "Veil.” "Parents need to get involved in getting their children excited about reading and helping them find books they will enjoy. This can be the first step toward making children read more complex and rich books in the future."
This solution is echoed by Kent Williams, executive director of the National Council of Teachers of English, who laments, "[I]n many schools reading programs are not about building cognitive abilities or a love of reading."
Mr. Miller set out to make his books both engaging and challenging. They follow a group of teens who are abducted to an alien world called Shadowind, which is inhabited by ghostly creatures, cyborg animals, and virtual humans—a land where anything is possible, including being downloaded into a cryptic, evil role-playing game. In order to survive, the youths band together as they search for a way back home.
To encourage an interest in reading, experts from Scholastic.com suggest parents keep lots of different kinds of reading materials geared to children's interests around the house—for instance a kids’ sports magazine, or books on other activities children love.
Children whose parents read with them regularly at young ages performed academically as much as a year ahead of their peers by age fifteen, according to an Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development study.
"It is definitely up to parents to keep the reading ball rolling and not to rely solely on schools and teachers," says Mr. Miller, who has been writing for more than forty years. His backgrounds in science fiction, astronomy, technology, and classic literature inform his work, which has included novels, short stories, and music. He is the owner of Wood n Nails Music and lives in Las Cruces, New Mexico, with his wife and two dogs.
Here are some other ways parents can encourage their children to read more:
* Find books based on your child’s interests and passions. If she likes robots, find books with stories about robots.
* Take your child to bookstores, libraries, and museum bookstores.
* Join children's book clubs online or at local libraries. It's a great way to interact with other child readers, discuss books, share opinions, and find suggestions.
* Go to book signings and meet authors in person at bookstores, libraries, book expos, etc. This helps children get closer to authors and learn more about them. An author's fun personality can be a positive influence on a child to pick up and read his or her book.
* Listen to audiobooks. Kids spend a lot of time in cars—perfect for popping in a book on CD.
* Read out loud together in unison or sentence by sentence. Either way can be fun and engaging.
* Instead of toys give books for birthdays and holidays. This shows the primacy and importance of books and reading.
* Read before bed. Leave books next to the bed and develop a reading pattern for at least fifteen to twenty minutes every night.