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Reading During the COVID-19 Quarantine: Now is the Time to Raise a Real Reader

With schools (and everything else) closed and lots (and lots and lots) of extra time at home, a golden opportunity has been presented to us parents and caregivers. We have time to read. So do our children. Research has shown us that students are far more likely to read independently and successfully if given time and choice. That’s pretty much all we have right now, right?

So, a few things to keep in mind while we’re home with our children: 

  • If you’re the type of parent that thrives on a more fixed schedule, then you’ll want to build in time to read. But a word of caution: Please don’t frame it as something you “have” to do. It’s something you and your children “get” to do! More tips on how to talk to your child about reading here.
  • Get comfy. Read on the couch, in a fort, in a tree, in the sunshine, in bed with a flashlight. More info on why location is so important here.
  • Separate, if you think that is needed. This might be a great time to get everyone in their own room, especially if you’re spending a lot of time all together in your living room or kitchen right now.
  • Read TO your children. Many parents feel that once kids are old enough to read independently, read aloud time ends. Simply not true. Here are just a few ways kids benefit from being read to: 
    • You are able to model strong fluency and reading with expression.
    • You can clear up words they may have been reading incorrectly in their heads. I still remember the first time I realized that the word “hors d’oeuvres” was not pronounced “hours devours.”
    • If your child is participating in eLearning, they will need to take regular breaks to give their eyes a rest. This is a great opportunity for that. 
    • Their teachers probably spend a portion of each day reading to them. By continuing this routine, you’re giving them a sense of normalcy in a time when we’re all craving that. 
  • Audio books can be game changers for your family right now. Listen to a book during chore time or arts and crafts time or while making lunch or dinner. Library closed? Download a book from one of the many apps so you can listen to your book instead. Bonus: many kids will especially love books that are read by the author. 
  • Trying to keep in touch with friends and family while social distancing? Schedule a FaceTime session where your child reads a chapter of a favorite book to a grandparent or cousin. And then perhaps the grandparent can read to them? What a perfect way to combine socializing and reading in a safe way. 
  • When you know better, you should do better, right? You know your kids need to see YOU reading, but let’s face it, the to-do list (or Netflix) can often get in the way. If you’re home right now, let yourself relax with that book you’ve been wanting to read for ages. Tips for eliminating distractions are here.
  • Escaping the reality of our current situation is just a good idea. Put your phone in another room, keep the TV off, and let yourself be transported to a time and place where the words coronavirus and COVID-19 are nonexistent. 

Your kids will be forever affected by this time in our lives. When their own children and grandchildren ask what they remember about it, make sure reading books is a part of their answer. This is a golden opportunity to shape your child into a lifelong, “real” reader. 

 

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Books and Series To Read When Children Need An Escape

I had just finished reading Erin Entrada Kelly’s beautifully written book Lalani of the Distant Sea when I got a text from my sister about an assignment her fifth grader had just completed: 

He has to write an argumentative essay that names a word of the year, and then defend it. He chose “altercation.” And then wrote paragraphs about mass shootings, everyone fighting about global warming, the potential war with Iran, and immigration. Imagine at 10 years old, the word you think best describes the world is altercation. 

My dreamy thoughts from Lalani quickly came to a halt as I considered this. My sensitive nephew’s world view is just so different from what I remember mine being at age 10. While I could name the current president (Ronald Reagan), my primary troubles were saving enough money for more stickers for my sticker album or wondering if Friday’s episode of Full House would be a rerun. 

It’s not always feasible to offer our children opportunities to escape the current events of both their immediate world and the larger, global world.

But books can be that temporary vacation from reality and offer us (adults and children alike) a much needed respite from the constant barrage of pain and suffering.

Whole worlds are awaiting us between the covers of books. As a long-time advocate of realistic fiction as a tool to develop empathy and understanding, I’ve recently found myself drawn more to fantasy. It’s like my brain and my heart simply need to disconnect from our reality from time to time. 

Fantasy books or series for beginning chapter book readers: 

Dragon Masters series by Tracey West

Owl Diaries and/or Unicorn Diaries series by Rebecca Elliott

The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane by Kate DiCamillo

The Last Firehawk series by Katrina Charman

Princess in Black series by Shannon Hale 

Secrets of Droon series by Tony Abbott

Princess Pink and the Land of Fake-Believe series by Noah Z. Jones

Creature Campers series by Joe McGee

Ricky Ricotta’s Mighty Robot series by Dav Pilkey

Fantasy books or series for upper elementary or middle school readers: 

Lalani of the Distant Sea by Erin Entrada Kelly

The Tale of Desperaux by Kate DiCamillo

The Girl Who Drank the Moon by Kelly Barnhill

Wings of Fire series by Tui T. Sutherland

Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling

The Land of Stories series by Chris Colfer

Any series by Rick Riordan

Fantasy books or series for Young Adult (YA): 

The Children of the Blood and Bone by Tomi Adeyemi (Legacy of Orisha series)

Red Queen by Victoria Aveyard

Ship Breaker, by Paolo Bacigalupi

Graceling, by Kristin Cashore

Stardust and Fortunately, the Milk by Neil Gaiman

Popular fantasy authors with high school students:

Neal Shusterman

Rick Riordan

Christopher Paolini

Erin Hunter 

Ally Condie 

Holly Black

Marie Lu 

Garth Nix

Stephanie Garber  

It’s not that fantasy is problem-free. It’s just that they aren’t exactly like our current problems, and so that alone feels like an escape. When the good character wins in the end, it seems easier to believe that it’s possible for that to happen in the real world, too.

These books can fill us with hope at a time when hope seems in short supply.

In Lalani of the Distant Sea, Lalani overcomes a series of physical and mental challenges away from her village, while unknowingly providing the spark for change against oppression back home. Sounds like the type of uplifting story your ten-year-old should be filling his head with, right?

We want our children to grow up to be engaged, informed citizens. It’s important that they not be shielded from current events and what’s happening in the world around them completely. But reality in 2020 is heavy, and we all need that weight removed from our shoulders occasionally, even if it’s just for the time it takes us to cozy up and read a good book.

*This post contains Amazon Affiliate links.

We offer more book recommendations here. Craving even more reliable book recommendations? A roundup of our favorite resources is here.

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Why You Need Books to Like Books

If our readers take anything away from this website, we hope it’s the importance of access to books. We’ve written about it from various angles over the past year, like this post about placing books around your home, or this post about letting children choose their own books. Let’s approach book access from a viewpoint that might make some uncomfortable: privilege.

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Gratefulness Giveaway: Win a Book Hand-Selected By Us for Your Child

UPDATE: GIVEAWAY HAS NOW ENDED.

It’s been about six months since we launched Raising Real Readers, although it was a dream of ours for years before we ever hit “publish” on that first post. Since June, you have filled our comments, social media channels, and even email inboxes with questions, concerns, fears, and excitement about your child’s reading habits. We are enormously grateful that you have allowed us into your home to be a small part of your family’s reading routine.

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Book Review: The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas

When I was 17, my parents took me to New York City on spring break. We splurged on a Broadway show and saw Ragtime, a musical centered around racial injustice in America in the early 20th century. Never before had my eyes been so open to the mistreatment and brutality directed at people of color. The fact that I hadn’t considered this until my late teens is the very definition of white privilege.

And it’s exactly why books like Angie Thomas’ best-selling, award-winning The Hate U Give are so important. For people of color, this book is an important moment of representation, a chance to see their lived experience in print and on movie screens. For readers like me, who grew up in an upper middle class, mostly white suburb, it is a glimpse into the life of a black teenager living in an impoverished neighborhood. We cannot begin to dismantle systemic white supremacy until we recognize and acknowledge the effects of generations of discrimination, oppression, and violence. This book is just such an opportunity to educate ourselves.

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20 Minutes of Reading a Day: 18 Tips to Make It a Habit, Not a Chore

One of the most popular forms of homework is usually some version of a weekly reading log, where students read for at least 20 minutes each day. As a former classroom teacher turned school librarian/reading specialist, I have mixed feelings about this assignment.

Let’s be happy whenever students are encouraged to read, especially if the alternative is a worksheet.

This is the type of assignment that could go a long way toward making reading a daily habit, if both the teacher and parents frame it in a way that makes it seem less like an assignment and more like a gift.

But when parents (and teachers!) fall into certain “reading log traps,” they may be causing more harm than good when it comes to nurturing a lifelong reading habit.

 

The Do’s and Don’ts of Required Reading Minutes/Reading Logs

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Where to Get Book Recommendations Your Child Will Love

Our most recent posts have encouraged families to allow their child to choose their own reading material and to reflect thoughtfully on how books impact childrens’ (and adults’) lives. But where to turn when you’ve read the last page of a recent favorite, or finally finished that series you started 6 months ago? (I call this having a book hangover and the only cure is a new favorite!) Or maybe you’re still searching for that one book that is sure to hook them to love reading long-term.

Here are some fool-proof resources for great children’s book recommendations… some for when you have loads of time to browse with your child and a few that take only a few seconds!

Helpful Sources for Children’s Book Recommendations

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The Impact of a Book

Photo courtesy of Jorge Mendez Blake’s website.

I let out a long, slow breath the first time pictures of Jorge Mendez Blake’s work The Castle appeared in my Facebook feed. I don’t pretend to connect or understand art easily. But this? This I understood. Maybe it’s because without even zooming in on the title of the book (The Castle by Franz Kafka), I was already picturing how this wall represented the reading lives of our children.

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Why You Need to Let Children Choose Their Own Books

On the last day of our summer vacation, I told my kids they could each pick out a souvenir from the national park gift shop. They chose the $7 grab bag of fake gemstones. Literally something we could buy at our local dollar store, and had no significance to the place we’d been. I was sure the stones would end up at the bottom of our toy bin. I cringed while I made the purchase and handed over the tiny drawstring bags to their eager hands. Read More

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