“I’m bored.” These words can be maddening for any parent of a tween or teen to hear, but perhaps even more so this year when your kid’s go-to activities and plans have been changed or canceled. During this unusual time, your usual ideas for fighting boredom may no longer be in the cards, so how can you inspire your child to use their imagination and explore new hobbies at home? Natalie Dixon Bell, English Teacher at The Ellis School, is sharing tools and techniques parents can employ to bolster their child’s love of reading, writing, and storytelling.
1. Start with a Series
For a lot of kids, a love of independent reading begins with a book series. From Harry Potter to The Hunger Games, oftentimes, when kids read and enjoy the first book in a series, they are eager to read the rest of the books. The interwoven storylines and multifaceted characters keep them interested—and away from TV and video games! There are different book series available to kids at every age and genre, so consider your child’s interests and check out a few options at the library or your local bookstore.
2. Introduce Non-Traditional Ways of Reading
If your child gets distracted easily by traditional chapter books, try introducing graphic novels or audiobooks to them. Graphic novels are helpful for children who depend heavily on visuals for comprehension, because according to educational researcher P.E. Griffith, “processing text and images together leads to better recall and transfer of learning. With [graphic novels], students not only learn the material faster, they learn it better.” Audiobooks are also a great option; they allow kids to hear fluent reading, as well as listen to what pacing and punctuation should sound like when reading independently and aloud. Another bonus is kids can listen to audiobooks while they complete chores, relax in the backyard, or are in the car.
3. Offer to Host a Book Club
Being in a book club can teach kids valuable skills like how to participate thoughtfully in a discussion, how to form opinions and think critically, and how to relate reading to their own personal experiences. If your child is younger, consider creating a book club together with other parents and their kids so you can read with them and help guide discussions. If your child is older, encourage them to find a small group of friends and rotate book selections. If meeting in person isn’t an option right now, set up a monthly virtual meeting for your child instead.
4. Utilize Free Digital Resources
Your child may correlate writing with schoolwork and assignments—but the opposite can be true. Writing can be fun, relaxing, and introspective for kids, they just might need a nudge in the right direction to get started. To encourage writing at home, utilize digital resources to spark their imagination. Scholastic Story Starters generates creative writing prompts in different genres and is great for elementary and middle grade children; and NaNoWriMo provides tools, community, and encouragement to tween and teen writers and allows them to track their progress, set goals, and connect with fellow writers.
5. Encourage Them to Keep a Journal
Handwritten diaries may seem like a thing of the past to your kids, but they don’t have to be! Encourage them to chronicle their thoughts and daily musings in a journal so they can look back on their childhood and this unprecedented time we are living through. Designating time to write before bed can help them get in the swing of things, and there are even guided journals you can purchase that offer prompts and creative ideas to get their thoughts started. The most important thing to note when suggesting journaling is to remind your child that this writing is for their eyes only. It’s not graded, it’s not critiqued, and it’s not for anyone else—it’s their own personal space to process and reflect upon their experiences.
6. Read or Write Together as Family
Try to prioritize time for your family to read and write together. Whether it’s an hour once a week at night before bed or on Sunday morning, designating quiet time together as family is a good way to instill habits of reading and writing at home. Bonus: when you’re reading and writing with them, you’re modeling this behavior for your kids and they will be more likely to follow suit.
Do you want your child to be a lifelong learner and reader? At The Ellis School, teachers in grades pre-kindergarten through grade 12 are dedicated to exposing our students to diverse authors, stories, and ideas in language arts classes.