(BPT) - Reading is a gateway to other places, time periods, or even worlds. It's also the springboard to success in school and beyond. Parents can inspire a life-long love of reading by encouraging and guiding their children, especially as they get older.
"The tween years are particularly important for developing a joy for reading," says Jeff Kinney, author of "Diary of a Wimpy Kid" and creative lead at StoryArc Media. "Some children will naturally gravitate toward books and others tend to be reluctant readers. Parents are the key to providing ample opportunity and modeling the importance of reading. Experts agree that reading is a skill that will pay off throughout life."
When they are toddlers, it's easy to sit down and read a picture book. When they are tweens, they are more independent, plus there are plenty of distractions. Kinney offers three ideas for inspiring your tween reader to pick up a book.
Explore an interest
Does she adore baseball? Is he all about the outdoors? Does she love animals? Reading for fun can be powerful when you consider your child's interests. Whether fiction or non-fiction, the tween genre has countless books that touch on virtually every subject imaginable.
Chat with your tween about what he or she thinks would be fun subjects to explore. Then visit your local library. Librarians are great resources for knowing what would appeal to your child's interests, plus what's hot with different age groups. And, don't forget the power of online booksellers too - searching and reading reviews can be part of the adventure.
Tween readers aren't limited to traditional chapter books. Variety is key for tweens, who vacillate from comic books to magazines to traditional chapter books to anything on a screen. One segment that has exploded in popularity with the tween crowd is graphic novels. These books incorporate comic-style art along with conventional storytelling to draw the reader in. Here are three summer-time "must reads" that are guaranteed to excite your tween:
"Galactic Hot Dogs: The Wiener Strikes Back"
Since the initial launch of Galactic Hot Dogs on Funbrain.com, millions of kids have delighted in the exploits of Cosmoe, Humphree, Princess Dagger and the rest of the gang featured in weekly webisodes. The first book in the series, "Cosmoe's Wiener Getaway," was published in May 2015 and now, Cosmoe and his space-adventuring partners return, ready to save the galaxy (and of course sell more hot dogs) in this zany adventure. Besides, what could possibly go wrong when you combine hot dogs and a flying space circus?
"The Popularity Papers"
Think graphic novels only appeal to boys? Think again. Most are gender-neutral and some are created with girls in mind. One example is the Popularity Papers book series, where best friends Lydia and Julie relentlessly pursue one goal: cracking the code of popularity. The books are fashioned as a notebook detailing their observations of cool kids, incorporating humor and messages on the importance of friendship.
"Poptropica: Mystery of the Map"
Poptropica.com began as a virtual world in which kids explore a chain of story-based islands, travel back in time, battle monsters, solve mysteries and complete quests in a kidSAFE-certified environment. Now a New York Times best-seller, Mystery of the Map is the first book to tell the origins story of the Poptropica game - extending the fun from screen to page. The next book in the Mystery of the Map series is due out in August 2016.
Shared reading can be a great way to bond with your tween or encourage a reluctant reader. You could read the book together each night, taking turns reading pages or chapters out loud. Alternatively, you could both read independently and then talk about the chapters together.
Feeling especially motivated this summer? Start a kids' book club with other parents. Select a book to read each month and then have kids meet for snacks and a discussion. Too busy to meet regularly? Start an online group or discuss the book via text. The more kids talk about reading, the more excited they'll get about reading. After all, the more kids read for fun, the better they do in school and eventually, in life.