Wednesday, February 28, 2018

How to Get Your Screen-Loving Kids to Read Books for Pleasure: A Book Review

Do You Worry Because Your Children Prefer Screen Time to Reading Time?

Today's kids love their electronic devices. Whether they are playing games, texting their friends, or hanging out on social media, parents often wish they'd pick up a book to read for fun.   Is there something parents can do to encourage their children to enjoy reading? Kaye Newton believes there's a lot parents can do to turn their children on to books. She shares this in her book: How to Get Your Screen-Loving Kids to Read Books for Pleasure

How to Get Your Screen-Loving Kids to Read Books for Pleasure: A Book Review
Photo Courtesy of Pixabay Text added on PicMonkey

How We Encouraged Our Children to Read 

I was a natural bookworm. So when my own learning disabled adopted children weren't reading for fun, I worried. I also tried some of the following tricks, some of which Kaye Newton also recommends. 
  1. I read to our kids all the time and we talked about the books we were reading.
  2. When I knew my middle grade son could read a book but he'd rather I read it to him, I'd start reading it aloud and when I got to an exciting part, I'd remember something important I needed to do and he'd then finish the book himself. 
  3. I had books on topics that matched the children's interests visible where the children liked to hang out -- handy to pick up and read. 
  4. For every birthday and Christmas, I'd take the children to a children's bookstore and let them pick out two books they wanted for their own. They prized those books they'd picked out and often read them.
  5. I took the children to the library often and we'd all pick out books. 
  6. My husband and I both read for pleasure, thus modeling the behavior we hoped our children would pick up.
As a result of these activities, both our children eventually began to read on their own for fun when they weren't playing outside or engaging in other activities with friends and organizations. My son liked to read in bed at night to wind down from an active day. These humorous stories of outdoor life were some of his favorite night reads when he was in middle school. I would hear him laughing in his bed as I'd walk past. We also read McManus books together as a family.

Newton's Suggestions for Turning Your Kids on to Books

I had it easy getting my kids to read because personal computers were just entering homes and we didn't yet have access to the internet. There weren't any mobile phones in most homes yet, either. By choice we didn't have a television. So we didn't have to worry about the competition with screen time as parents do today. Newton addresses how to get children away from their screens in a variety of ways and entice them to use some of their leisure time to read. Here are some of the things she covers in her book

Why Is Reading for Pleasure Important?

Parents who were not recreational readers themselves may not be convinced that their children need to be. So Newton addresses the importance of recreational reading. She states these benefits researchers have discovered:
  • Reading reduces stress.
  • Reading makes people smarter.
  • Reading helps develop empathy.
  • Reading helps teens sleep better.
  • Reading prepares teens for college and the workplace
  • Reading helps connect the generations.
  • Reading may help people live longer. 

Encouraging Older Children and Reluctant Readers to Read for Fun

Some children, like me, naturally took to reading for pleasure. Others like my brother, hated to read, even though we read to him all the time and he enjoyed the stories. We later discovered he was dyslexic. Back then it was a condition just being discovered. Children with learning disabilities usually need special help and direction before they will read for pleasure.

Newton offers suggestions for helping these children learn to enjoy reading. She also addresses how to encourage children who read below and above their grade levels. She explains to parents the various measures of reading levels and what they mean. She addresses vision problems and how to solve them. She also discusses social pressures, such as being labeled a "nerd."

Here are some suggestions for high interest fiction and biographies for secondary students in middle and high school who are reading below their level. I thoroughly enjoyed the biographies myself and read almost the entire Creative Minds series when I used to sell these books.

If you want to get your children interested in history, try these highly visual books which bring American History to life for all ages

What Counts as Real Reading? 

Are text messages and social media posts real reading? What about graphic novels? Is seeing the movie just as good as reading the book? How about SparkNotes as a substitute for reading a book? How about manga, picture books, and chat fiction? 

Is it important that children stick to their reading levels? What if children have low reading comprehension skills? Should parents be concerned about a noisy reading environment or a strange reading position? Is reading an ebook on an electronic device as good as reading a bound book? Are there reading apps that will get teens interested in reading?  Should parents use their authority to have their kids take screen breaks for a couple of hours?

Newton's Family Reading Project  

Newton describes the two goals she had set for her family:

  1. Help her teens and preteens become self-motivated independent readers
  2. Increase reading of any long-form text, such as articles, blogs, magazines, etc. 

She spends a lot of time helping parents find the books that their children will want to read. This includes recommendation lists by age and interests and a list of reasons why children read accompanied by book suggestions that will address each reason. 

If children are to read, they need easy access to books. Kaye suggests sources for inexpensive books and also how to make reading the most desirable activity in a room. If children find books intimidating, subscribe to magazines your children will enjoy. My son was a Scout and he would devour his monthly issue of Boy's Life when he wouldn't voluntarily pick up a book.

 Newton encourages parents to model reading for pleasure and to help make reading enjoyable for their children. She suggests ways to make reading a social activity, since teens love to be with their  friends. 

Other topics Newton covers are whether parents should use reading rewards, summer reading and traveling with books, book clubs, and getting schools to promote a reading culture. She spends time on helping your children learn the difference between real and fake news. `

How to Get Your Screen-Loving Kids to Read Books for Pleasure: A Book Review
Courtesy of Pixabay

My Review

I agree that what Kaye Newton proposes in her book are effective techniques for turning older children into readers. I like her suggestions for parents and children interacting together about their reading. I firmly believe parents should be aware of what their children read, and even read portions of books their children are reading so they can discuss them together. 

I'm not completely with Kaye when she says children should be allowed to chose any books they want when they read for pleasure. I happen to believe that some books are just bad for kids. It doesn't bother me if a child wants to read picture books or other books that aren't on his or her exact reading level. Reading for pleasure should be relaxing.

But just as we encourage our children to eat healthy foods, we should encourage children to read books that will build healthy values rather than destroy them. I would let children pick the books they prefer to read from a collection the parent has screened. Your children tend to form attitudes and values from the books they read just as they do from the shows and movies they watch. 

I suppose one reason I feel so strongly about this is that we adopted two older children, and one of them carried a lot of emotional  baggage that most children don't. When left to her own devices and the advice of friends with similar emotional baggage, she would choose books that were dark and made life seem hopeless. 

She seemed magnetically attracted to the books that could do her the most harm. We could not prevent her from reading them because her friend sneaked them to her. The house was full of high-interest good books with lots of excitement and adventure, but she was irresistibly drawn to books full of orgies and violence like things she had witnessed and been part of as a young child. Because I was unaware she was reading these books, we could not discuss them. 

When I was selling books and getting free samples from publishers, I saw books it was hard to believe were aimed at the young adult market. They were  full of  drug use, promiscuous sex, and confusion. They did not model how a confused teen could escape that confusion. There were no good role models that had their lives together. These books weren't just junk food for the mind -- they were poison to the spirit.

How to Get Your Screen-Loving Kids to Read Books for Pleasure: A Book Review
Courtesy of Pixabay

So many wonderful and uplifting books are available that can encourage a child's spirit and feed a child's soul in a constructive way! These books, too, are full of action, romance, mystery, and adventure, yet their characters solve problems in a constructive way, have healthy relationships and aren't afraid to turn to adults to help them over rough places. They show there is an alternative to darkness and despair and that drugs and sex aren't necessary ingredients in having fun. 

So although Newton's suggestions do get kids reading on their own for pleasure, I think parental involvement in helping children learn to make good choices is important. I think it does matter what children read -- not just that children are reading. The wrong books in the hand of an alienated teen could be dangerous, because books do feed the mind and help form values. 

Newton's suggestions work best when parents follow her guidance about modeling behavior and being involved with their children's reading. She assumes parents reading her book care about getting their children on the road to reading success and that they will fill their homes with books that appeal to their children and make reading a family priority. Just as Kaye got her own children reading with these methods, I believe parents as involved as she was who follow her example will also turn their children into recreational readers. 

If you care about helping your children become independent readers who will be more successful in life, get this book to help you encourage them in that direction. 

How to Get Your Screen-Loving Kids to Read Books for PleasureHow to Get Your Screen-Loving Kids to Read Books for PleasureCheck Price

How to Get Your Screen-Loving Kids to Read Books for Pleasure: A Book Review
Courtesy of Pixabay, Text Added in PicMonkey

How do you get your children away from their screens and into books?

Note: The author may receive a commission from purchases made using links found in this article. “As an Amazon Associate, Ebay (EPN) and/or Esty (Awin) Affiliate, I (we) earn from qualifying purchases.”


  1. I've been a book reader all my life, stemming from a mom who read books constantly and read to us as children. Two of my 3 children were big book readers and love to read to this day. The oldest was discovered in first grade that he had Amblyopia (the lazy eye condition) and needed glasses and correction. After he finally learned to read, he wasn't interested in reading for fun. It took years, but today he is enjoys reading for pleasure just as much as the rest of us. I really think reading for pleasure is important for everyone old and young.

    1. I'm glad your son got his condition corrected and and began to enjoy reading as a pleasurable activity. I can't imagine a life without it. My brother also began to read a bit as an adult, but his tastes run more to nonfiction.

  2. I was fortunate that our children were also growing up during the time before laptops, cell phones, ipads, etc. We did have a television and it was pretty much the only competition to reading. I can only imagine how extremely difficult it is to get children to read today. I certainly agree with all of your suggestions. Reading to our children was something both my husband and I did without giving a thought to the reason why. I remember the book drives at school well. Our children would come home with dozens of books circled that they wanted to buy. We did our best, but funds were limited. As much as I would have liked for them to have all of the books, they did have to pick and choose, but I keep their lists for gift giving occasions and shared them with family members when they needed a gift suggestion. Even their Easter baskets had books in them. But that was a different time for sure. I'm glad that Kaye Newton has thought to write this book. Until I read your review, I hadn't considered how very hard it would be to encourage children to read now. I do like her suggestion of introducing reading with selected magazines. We grew up with comics and they were great for short reads when we were in the car. How very sad to think that children are missing out on the beauty, fun and adventure of reading.

    1. I was already hooked on reading before the first TV entered our home, and it had a hard time competing with my books. We had less books to choose from back then, and children's publishing was just starting to take off. There are more quality books for children today, but also more "junk." Not all the junk is harmful, but the amount of it makes the really good books harder to see. It seems the advertising dollars and media connections have more to do with sales than the quality of the books. Too many of today's bookshelves are filled with entertaining books that will increase a children' reading speed without providing much food for thought. There are so many excellent books that do both, but they can easily be missed because they don't get the publicity.

  3. When the boys were young, reading to them, and have them reading to me was standard. Of course as they got older and of course, got cell phones, reading ended up being on their phones and online mostly. But the topics were nothing that would interest me - sports, their type of music, etc. I suppose as long they're reading something that's a good thing. Excellent advice and post here too Barbara.

    1. I'm afraid most of my reading is on my Kindle and online these days, too. But I developed my reading habit with real books. I think learning on books first before moving to screens is better for brain development. As children grow older, they do develop interests different from those of their parents and it is often easier to pursue the most recent information on those interests online.


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