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How to Raise a Reader

Eight tips for getting your kids hooked on books -- ebooks or the paper kind.

Topics: Learning Reading

Kids become lifelong readers for all kinds of reasons. Sometimes there's one key book that captures a kid's imagination. Other times, a teacher assigns a great book that sparks a hunger for more big ideas and fine writing. Or a librarian puts the right book in a kid's hands just when they need it. Or kids see parents, caregivers, or siblings read for pleasure.

Here are our best tips for nurturing a love of reading that can last a lifetime:

Read to little kids and big kids.

It's cozy reading to little ones on your lap, cuddling next to you, or falling asleep in bed as you enjoy picture books together. Children will remember the closeness as well as the story. And many kids still enjoy read-alouds well after they learn to read on their own. They benefit from hearing the rhythm of the language, learning correct pronunciation, asking questions, and getting to relax and just take in the story.

Discover book series.

Many kids become book lovers for life after getting hooked on a book series. There are lots of good ones that keep kids hungry for the next installment. Some reliable choices: Dog Man, Judy Moody, and Stella Diaz for beginning readers; Dragons in a Bag, Harry Potter, and Percy Jackson for middle graders; Divergent, The Shadowshaper Cypher, and To All the Boys I've Loved Before for teens.

Count on old favorites.

Some titles are considered classic books for kids because they engage readers generation after generation. Try introducing books you loved as a kid: Corduroy, Charlotte's Web, the Narnia books.

Pick books about the things your reader loves.

If they're wild about vehicles, find books about cars, trucks, and trains. If your reader craves superheroes, princesses, or ghosts, find books with those characters. Librarians, booksellers, and internet searches will help you discover books on any favorite topic.

Feed kids funny stories.

Humor is a great pathway to book loving. Some parents wrestle with letting their children read Captain Underpants, or Diary of a Wimpy Kid, or other funny books for kids that feature youngsters getting in trouble. Talk with your kids about the content, but keep in mind that kids eat these books up not because they want to imitate the characters' behavior -- they just enjoy trying it on for size while reading the story.

Mix it up with comics.

Graphic novels are among the hottest trends in children's publishing, and they can get kids hooked on reading. Kids may start with Squish and Babymouse and move on to more layered fare such as El Deafo and New Kid. You can even find graphic novels that teach history.

Check out ebooks.

Reading digital books can be especially engaging for boys and reluctant readers, and you can download or access many books on an ereader, tablet, or phone, which make them a great choice for car rides, travel, and reading in bed. Find free ebooks at Internet Archive, Project Gutenberg, and Open Library. Or use your library card to check out books using the Libby app.

Make reading a family value.

Take your kids to the library regularly to choose books and hear story times. Bring them along to browse your local bookstore, hunt for low-cost books at used bookstores or secondhand shops, or look for books placed in Little Free Libraries you may find on the street. Show kids that finding a good book is like a treasure hunt. Set aside time for reading only -- turning off the TV, computer, and cellphone. Read to little ones at bedtime and provide time and space for your kids to read for pleasure in the car (if they don't get carsick!), after homework is done, or on their own before bed. Warning: It could be habit-forming!

Regan McMahon

Regan has been reviewing children's books for more than 20 years, and was for almost 12 years the Books editor at Common Sense Media. A journalist and former book editor for the San Francisco Chronicle, she cites as one of her toughest assignments having to read and review the 784-page Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows on deadline in 48 hours. Regan is also a published author whose book Revolution in the Bleachers: How Parents Can Take Back Family Life in a World Gone Crazy Over Youth Sports grew out of her experience keeping up with two athletic kids. She earned a B.A., teaching credential, and master's degree in the teaching of French at the University of California at Berkeley -- reflecting a passion she's had for all things French since reading Eloise in Paris as a child.