GRAND RAPIDS, Mich — As a part of 13 Reads Week, we're exploring how to improve literacy here in West Michigan. 

Jessica Bratt, the youth services supervisor at Grand Rapids Public Library (GRPL), joined us in the studio on Jan. 29 to talk about helping kids find the right book to get them motivated to read. 

Bratt says reading has to be fun. She listed some strategies to do that:

  • Share stories: during car rides, mealtime, give child space to be an oral storyteller, listen and ask questions
  • Use your phone to record your child's stories and in your free time, listen back to the recording and either a) create illustrations to visually tell their stories or b) create a slide-show using related pictures and imagery. By the end, you'll have created a book
  • Use the TV. Mute the TV and put on the closed captions and read along! One of my favorite methods to get kids excited about reading is by using anime and turning on subtitles to read together. You can easily find age-appropriate anime: think Pokemon, Yu-Gi-Oh, Beyblade. 
  • For younger kids use dramatic play. For example, when you are making something -- even something as simple as a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, ask kids to lead you through the instructions. Write it down and see what order it goes in. It doesn't have to be perfect, it just has to be fun. 
  • Use of voices goes a long way. In dramatic re-tellings, remember to use silly voices, voice inflection, intonation, high low, etc. Use your voice to better illustrate the tone of the story and to get kids excited about the experience of storytelling. 

Bratt says you can also use your library. Drop by any GRPL branch to talk to staff to get recommendations for your child. The library also holds various events for kids and families. 

They have plenty of online resources

Bratt also says getting kids engaged in reading does not mean they need to read at whatever their designated reading level is. 

She thinks of reading as both a long game and short game. In the long-term, let children read what they want. That way you can identify what it is they enjoy reading, then find similar titles at other reading levels. In the short term, set goals and use strategies to encourage literacy. 

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