Think Outside the Book

After last week's blog about the Captain Underpants Name-Change-O-Chart 2000, I had some interesting comments from my friends that read my blog. In response to my comment about the Captain Underpants series not always being a big hit with teachers, librarians and parents alike, my friend Kristin commented that her stepson's teacher had recently recommended that he cut back on the Dav Pilkey books and expand his reading repertoire a bit. Easier said than done, in my opinion.

Think about it: as a kid, how might you hear about new books or authors? Chances are, you read what is available in your classroom or school library or maybe what your friends are reading. These options are not highly likely to expand the types of books you choose. Most kids are going to stick to what they like and are comfortable with, just like....adults do.

I am an avid reader but will admit that I tend to stick to certain genres and/or authors, and being Type A to the core, I don't easily warm to new things. So as I sit here writing about how to encourage kids to expand their choice in literature, I feel more than just a little hypocritical....so I guess the question is not just how do you get kids to experiment with new things to read, but how to get readers in general to try new books.

Now, I'm not saying that you have to abandon all the books that you crave and love, I'm just saying that it wouldn't kill anybody, kid or adult, to try something new in the literature department. Who knows, you might actually find a new author or character to love. Without further ado, here are my tips to help you break out of your reading rut:

1. Try a new format. Squeamish about non-fiction? Hate short stories? Try listening to a book on tape or CD. Sometimes a fabulous reader can warm you up to a book that you would have never given a second glance. Bonus: audio books are super when you are reading a book with lots of foreign/tricky pronunciations.

2. Do some research. Instead of asking the same friends what they are reading (no hate for them, but we are trying to break out the mold here) consult new sources. Whether it is a co-worker, librarian, magazine review, award winners, a website or by observation, there are tons of ways to find out about new-to-you books. KidsReads is a fabulous website for kids with a wide range of recommendations and reviews. For adults, try Good Reads, a great site to share what you're reading and see what others are reading too.

3. Learn from your mistakes. Repeat after me: it is okay to not finish a book. If, in your new adventurous state, you start reading a book that makes you feel like running into a wall, then PUT IT DOWN! This is also okay for kids and will actually help them to become a more adept at choosing and critiquing what they read. There is no law that says you must finish every book you start. My rule is, if it doesn't catch my interest about 1/3 of the way through then the books is simply not for me, but hey, I gave it a go. Knowing what you don't like is just as valuable as knowing what you do like.

So, those are my tips to help you, and any kids that you know, discover some new books to share the shelf with the tomes that you already love. What do you do to find out about new books and authors? Do you have a great resource that helps you choose what you read? I'd love to hear what other people do, so please share!Happy reading!!

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