Novel ways to encourage reading

Reading Time: 5 minutes

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As a child I used to love the school holidays – what kid doesn’t? I was a country kid, which meant I was always outside on some adventure with my mates. From riding bikes to catching rabbits to swimming in irrigation channels. My days were filled with activities, so there wasn’t a lot of time to stop and read – or so I told myself. When it came to fun how could reading compare to skateboarding or playing cricket in the backyard?

But when I was around ten years old, Mrs C, the librarian at my school, St Augustine’s Primary in country Victoria, gave me a selection of books in a library bag, the ones that looked like a potato sack with a draw string. She thought that the selection would appeal to me. In that bag were a couple of books called The Hardy Boys, a series about teenagers solving mysteries, and two books by Colin Thiele – Blue Fin and Storm Boy. Mrs C challenged me to find the time to read them during the holidays, regardless of the fact that I had told her I would be very busy! I always liked a good challenge, but at the time I thought there was no way I was going to give up yabbying with my friends to sit and read.

But life has a funny way of stepping in and taking control at times. During these particular holidays I broke my arm skateboarding. I was devastated. With my arm in a plaster cast, I wasn’t able to join my mates for all of their outdoor adventures. So… I moped around home feeling sorry for myself. What was I going to do now? I shrugged and sighed as I begrudgingly rummaged through the sack of books Mrs C had given me.

I started with the Hardy Boys and then moved on to the Colin Thiele books, and before I knew it I was on adventures with new friends, lost in worlds that actually had some similarities to my life with my friends. Time flew as I voraciously tore through these stories. I couldn’t believe that I was having fun – totally lost in the simple act of reading.

By the time the next holidays came around, my arm had healed, and I was back out for most of the days playing with my mates, but this time I actually made sure that I left some space in my busy schedule to read, even for a few minutes a day. Being able to go on adventures on the page balanced out my real-life adventures. Holidays are fun-filled, but they are even better when you can take the time out and get lost in a good book.

Ten fun tips for reading and book-related activities for the holidays.

1. Read aloud and proud.
Entertain your younger brothers or sisters by reading aloud to them. If you don’t have siblings, read to your pet. Like the rest of us, cats, dogs and quite a few goldfish love a good story!

2. Books are better with cake.
Arrange a visit to your local library – join the library if you haven’t already! – and tag on a trip to a nearby cake store. Revel in the moment when you read the first couple of pages of the book you’ve just borrowed while enjoying a sixteen layered chocolate tart, or a cream éclair, at the same time. Be careful not to get any icing on the pages!

3. Books to movies.
Many blockbuster movies are screen adaptations of books. So why not try reading the book first before seeing the movie. Or vice versa. Try to spot what scenes from the book the producers left out or the new scenes they added to the story.

4. Bookend your day with reading.
We are constantly distracted by looking at our devices, so why not try this: Each day during the holidays, immediately after you wake up, and before picking up any device, pick up a book instead. Spend the first 15 minutes of your day reading before doing anything else. (I know that’s asking a lot.) Repeat this at the end of the day when you go to bed – 15 minutes of reading before you switch off your bedside light. It’s doesn’t sound like a lot of reading time but if you add it all up, by the end of the holidays you will have read for 420 minutes. That’s 7 hours – without really trying!

5. Write to the author.
Authors love to hear from their readers. I know I do. If you have a question or just want to say how much you love the author’s story, visit their website or try to find them on social media, and send them a message. (By the way, my website is felicearena.com and my Instagram account is Instagram.com/fleech)

6. Build the perfect reading cubby house or nook. Cubby houses (the lounge-room kind) are easy to make. You know the ones, couch pillows, blankets used for walls and roofs, pillows for the interior, etc. Create the perfect cubby and fill it with your favourite books – this will make your reading experience more intimate, a perfect escape from everyone. And if you think you’ve outgrown building lounge-room cubby houses, how about setting up a tent or tepee in the backyard instead? These cosy nooks make the best reading spaces for getting lost in a great book.

7. Record your reading.
This is sort of an extension to Tip #2. Why not record yourself reading from your favourite book and send the recording to your grandparents, or to a relative who may not live close by? They’re some great voice recording apps out there that allow you to compress the audio file and share it via email or messaging.

8. Share the book love.
If there’s a book you absolutely love, then the next time you’re invited to a friend’s birthday party, why not buy another copy for them?

9. TV Commercial Mute Reading.
While watching TV, mute the volume every time there’s a commercial, and see how much you can read during the ads. You’ll be amazed how much you’ll get through during an episode of your favourite show!

10. Chart your books!
Remember old growth charts, where parents would mark your height every year (usually pencil marks up the door frame)? Why not make a book chart tower. All you need is a long strip of butcher’s paper, and some Blu Tack to stick it your bedroom wall. Once you’ve read a book, trace it on your paper tower, starting from the bottom of course. Write in the title and the date you finished reading it. The next book you read you trace above the first book, and so on….