Why would a child want to read? How can a book compete with the tantalizing glow of a screen? As the months, or has it been years, of time at home drag on, parents’ nerves are fraying. How can we get kids excited about adventure? Is the love of reading in children a forgotten skill?
We reached out to an expert for advice. How can we turn reluctant readers into book loving kids? Darlene Foster is an award winning author, publishing seven books about a spunky young girl named Amanda. The popular series inspires adventure, travel and reading.
Darlene Foster on inspiring reading in children
Thanks, Sue for inviting me to your awesome blog which encourages travel and appreciating other countries and cultures.
I write my books to inspire children to explore the world and appreciate our unique differences as well as our similarities. Unlike when I was a child, children today are well travelled. Which is great. But right now, because of the COVID 19 pandemic, their parents aren’t able to take them on trips. By providing children with books that take place in other countries, they can go on a vacation without leaving the safety of their home. And by reading the books together, the whole family gets a holiday.
At what age should parents start reading to their children? What types of books are best?
Parents should start reading to their children while they are in the womb. It is never too early to start. Babies may not understand the words but the sound of their parents’ voice while reading is soothing to their ears. It plants the idea of reading as something enjoyable. Smaller children enjoy picture books as they can connect the words with the pictures. It is how children learn to read themselves. And there are so many fabulous picture books out there. But even children as young as three enjoy being read chapter books as it enables them to create pictures in their minds. Reading chapter books creates opportunity for discussion as children are always eager to ask many questions. There is no question that exposure to more advanced vocabulary is beneficial as children develop. Studies have proven that for the most part, children who have been read to, do better in school and in life.
For parents who say all their kids want to do is play video games, what is your advice on getting children to pick up a book instead?
Find a book that interests them. There is so much to choose from. If a young person loves video games, give them a book about a gamer. If there is a sport they enjoy, there are many books that feature hockey, football, baseball, tennis and other sports. Reading comics is still reading, and there are many great graphic novels out there too. If the book is part of a series and they loved the first one, they will want to read more of the series.
Are you a believer in limiting screen time for children? If so, what are your recommendations?
We are all aware that too much screen time is not a good thing, as too much TV was not a good thing. Getting kids away from their screens and outside into fresh air is very important. There are many fun outdoor activities parents can organize, like going for family hikes and picnics, visiting museums, and getting involved in sports or volunteering. If the weather is inclement, how about board or card games, baking something together or doing crafts indoors. We used to like to dress up and put on plays or talent shows for our parents to watch. Kids still like to dressup. One of the young girls we have as a visitor enjoys putting on puppet shows for us. Have them read a chapter of a book and then draw pictures of what they read. There are so many fun ways to get kids away from their devices.
If kids are reading e-books is that considered screen time? Should children be reading hard copy books?
I think reading is important in any format but giving children a choice is always good. Ensuring there are print books in the house and at their disposal as they are growing up, gives them an appreciation for holding a book in their hands. One seven year old said to me, “Of course we have books in our house. Who doesn’t like books?”
What role did reading play in your childhood?
Reading was my entertainment. I grew up on a farm/ranch on the Canadian prairies. We didn’t have a TV and this was way back when computers were something out of science fiction. There were no close neighbours for me to play with. We also didn’t travel. The three hour drive from Medicine Hat to Calgary was a big trip. I travelled and made friends through books and learned about the world outside of my own. I dreamt of visiting those faraway places one day. Books and magazines prevented boredom and sparked my imagination, for which I am eternally grateful.
What advice would young Amanda from your series have for other children?
Amanda would tell children to follow their dreams, and to meet people from different cultures and learn about them. She would tell them to read lots of books as they will take them to faraway places, both real and imagined.
Darlene grew up on a farm/ranch near Medicine Hat, Alberta, where her love of reading inspired her to travel the world and write stories. Over the years she held wonderful jobs such as an employment counsellor, ESL teacher, recruiter, and retail manager, and wrote whenever she had a few spare minutes. She is now retired, and when not travelling, meeting interesting people, and collecting ideas for her books, she enjoys time at her house in Spain with her husband and entertaining dog, Dot.
Her books include: Amanda in Arabia: The Perfume Flask, Amanda in Spain: The Girl in The Painting, Amanda in England: The Missing Novel, Amanda in Alberta: The Writing on the Stone, Amanda on The Danube: The Sounds of Music, Amanda in New Mexico: Ghosts in the Wind, and Amanda in Holland: Missing in Action. Amanda in Malta: The Sleeping Lady will be released in the spring of 2021.
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