Every parent wants to see their child succeed in school. It's an ingrained desire of every parent and yet, they never trust their own instincts. Regardless of what library I've worked at, be the an academic, public or high school library, parents seek advice on how to motivate their child to read. That's like saying, "how can I get my child to eat their vegetables?" There is no "right" way to motivate a child to read. Just as there is no "right" way to get children to love carrots or peas. Sometimes it is just a mix of the right book at the right time. In other words, keeping trying but have patience. There is one "tool" that is different and most of the time effective.
A creative approach to enticing children to read is a Family Literacy bag. What is a Family literacy bag? These bags are designed to encourage family reading nights. This literacy tool can be purchased as a set (www.schoolspeciality.com) or put together with a little creative imagination, time and money. A successful and creative literacy kit has a colorful bag to hold the following items: a content sheet, books, parent tip sheet, interactive activities and a parent/child response form. Each kit has a theme that parent and child will explore together. An example of a literacy theme kit is the zoo. Select titles that fit the theme, like Goodnight Gorilla, Dear Zoo, or I Am Pangoo the Penguin. Along with the books (Some literacy kits be as simple as one book) add a tip sheet to aid parents in asking their children questions about the book, suggested activities, plush toy that compliments the story, a content sheet to identify each item in the bag, and a comment form for parent and child to fill out and return to the library. This form is optional, however for the library it can provide a valuable tool in deciding on new literacy bags theme.
Providing family literacy kits is a positive reinforcement in motivating families not only to read together but to see the library as a place for a safe, inexpensive family night out activity. Of course, family programming accomplishes the same objective, however this is an affordable way for the library to support family literacy one step further. Additionally, librarians will find that the library-family connection is strengthen. Regardless of the social, economic, cultural background of the family, these kits allow the parents to feel comfortable in approaching the librarian with questions and concerns about helping their children with reading. With the literacy kits in hand, parents now feel they have the library as a partner in helping them help their children.
With that said, there is nothing that can replace the valuable moments that a parent shares with their child when reading together. It sparks conversations, it helps children relate to the world around them and most importantly it can help a child become confident in their ability to learn new things and to read on their own. Literacy kits can demonstrate to a child how reading can open the doors to new ideas, activities and other wonderful possibilities.