There are many ways you can share the gift of reading with a child. Whether you are hoping to introduce a meaningful title from your own childhood, you are trying to get to know a child in your life better, or you want to foster a love for reading by letting the child explore and choose for their self, a book can be a treasured gift that produces lasting memories.
A book I wanted to share with my daughter was The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett. Stephanie loved the story and it became her comfort book, the book she wanted read aloud when she wasn’t feeling well and to read on her own when she was. When sharing an older book such as this one, you should to be alert for language and ideas that may need explaining. You may still feel you can share the story and why it was meaningful to you, but you should also use the moment to explain to your companion reader how things have changed and why.
Reading aloud is a great way to spend time together and can lead to meaningful conversations. During the month of December, my father used to read aloud A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens while we were at the dinner table. Those words still carry his voice for me even though he is no longer here to read them. In the Kids and Family Reading Report: the Rise of Read Aloud put out by Scholastic, Pam Allyn says, “Read aloud is a prescription for lifelong success for the child and a dose of deep well-being for the family.” If you want to read aloud with your family, try The Silver Arrow by Lev Grossman. This tale about an unusual birthday gift, a steam locomotive, is described as similar to Roald Dahl in style. It also reminds me of another funny book about an odd gift, Mr. Popper’s Penguins . This tale by Richard Atwater was one of my son’s favorite stories and is another great read-aloud.
Perhaps you want to give a book to a child in your life, but you aren’t sure what they like. A little bit of investigating can go a long way. Try asking these questions:
- What are some books/authors that you like?
- Have you read some things that you didn’t like?
- What are your interests (outside of reading)?
- What do you like to watch?
- Do you have a favorite genre?
- What appeals to you in a story – characters, setting, style, mood?
Armed with some answers, you can do a little research by checking bookstores and libraries for lists, or our digital resource, NoveList, for “read-alikes.” Tapping into their interests may lead you to introduce children to a new favorite or to gift them with a follow up to an old favorite.
Sharing a conversation around reading may lead a child in your life to recommend a book to you. Anne of Green Gables by L.M. Montgomery is a book that Stephanie told me I had to read. We both ended up loving the tales of the spunky orphan Anne, with an “e,” as she finds her forever home. When I look back on my years of parenting (that little Stephanie is now 33!) I think of this as one of my “right moves.” I honored what she loved by reading it. It gave us a bond that lasts. Consider this when your child reaches out to share a title that has meaning to them: even if it’s not your taste, you will still have a moment of connection. Ask them why they like it, let them talk about their favorites. It is another way to help your child feel valued.
Which brings me to graphic novels. Do you hate them? Think they are inferior and not real reading? I’m here to change your mind. Today’s lovers of graphic novels and comics are lucky. They have so many, often award-winning, titles to choose from! I grew up reading everything Archie with some of my brother’s Spider-Man comics thrown in. I loved them, bought them, shared them, re-read them. That wasn’t the only thing I read, but the joy I felt in reading them fostered that very idea: there is joy in reading. And that joy is closely tied to choice. The National Council for Teachers of English (NCTE) has this to say about giving children independent choice in reading:
Student choice in text is essential because it motivates, engages, and reaches a wide variety of readers. The goal of independent reading as an instructional practice is to build habitual readers with conscious reading identities.
You can read the whole statement here .
If you want to support the importance of independent choice – give a gift to their favorite bookstore. Make an outing of it: accompany them to the store, let them choose the books that interest them, then celebrate with hot chocolate afterwards and listen to them talk about why they chose those titles. The time spent together sharing books might be the best gift of all.
Some new titles to look for: