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Technology tricks to help kids think reading is fun

Posted November 6

 (Deseret Photo)

More than a quarter of American adults did not read a single book in the last year. That stunning statistic from a recent report from the Pew Research Center made me sad.

I am an admitted bibliophile. At all times, I have one or two audiobooks downloaded on my phone to listen to in the car, three or four print books on my nightstand, and more e-books on my phone for when I have a few quick moments to read.

I’m not expecting others to be as obsessive as I am about the written word, but I would hope all of us could at least read one book in an entire year.

While adults aren’t required to read as most children are in school, it made me wonder if parents are simply raising kids who are uninterested in reading, and allowing them to become non-reading adults. If that is the case, what can moms and dads do to inspire a love of reading in their children?

Get techie — While the majority of people prefer to read print books, the biggest age group reading electronic books are — unsurprisingly — millennials. So, it would be logical to think even younger readers may also be drawn to e-books. Take advantage of the apps most public libraries use that allow readers to download books and audiobooks on their phones and tablets.

My local library — as well 30,000 others around the country — uses the Overdrive app. Depending on the limitations of each library, users can have several books and audiobooks downloaded at the same time, with others on hold to wait for their availability. You need an active library account, but the app automatically returns books on their due date, so no late fees, ever. My kids have loved listening to audiobooks as they fall asleep, or listening as a family on road trips. Hint: the Harry Potter audiobook series is fantastic.

Give them an incentive — The main reason my kids agreed to listen to the Harry Potter audiobooks is that is was a prerequisite for our trip to The Wizarding World of Harry Potter in Florida. Sure, we could have just watched the movies and headed on our merry way, but our amazing theme park experience was much richer because of the details we absorbed listening to the books in their entirety.

The incentive doesn’t have to be as grand as a trip to Orlando. One easy way to nudge your kids into more literature is to read books before they show up in theaters. Check the lists of upcoming movies based on books and make a plan. It’s great to have all your kids read the same book, if possible. Then, it turns into a friendly competition with each child pushing the others to read, instead of parents having to nag.

Use apps — Tons of reading apps are just waiting for kids of all ages to try them out. For younger readers, try MeeGenius, which has more than 700 interactive e-books for $5 per month. Kids can read along with the narration while the words are highlighted, or read it by themselves. Disney Storytime is similar, but parents purchase credits — there are three free titles — and then kids choose which books to buy individually. It will likely end up being more expensive with many of the same features, but kids can also record themselves reading the book. And don’t forget about that pre-loaded iBooks app on your Apple device. It has lots of free titles for when kids are desperate for something to read, but are out of money.

For older children who can read but need a fun way to brush up on grammar skills, it’s Mad Libs to the rescue. We all loved this word game as kids, and now the free app comes with dozens of stories just waiting for your children to fill in the crazy nouns, adjectives and adverbs.

Buy them a gift — Sometimes the simplest thing can give kids just enough motivation to keep turning the page. The Mark My Time digital bookmark is around $10 and keeps track of reading time for kids. They push a button to start a timer that goes off when their required reading time is up. The bookmark can also add up all their reading time over months until it hits 100 hours in case a child is shooting for a bigger goal.

Research has shown us time and time again that reading benefits children in everything from language skills to emotional stability. Use these tricks and tips to give your children — and yourself — an extra incentive to dive into a good book today.

Amy Iverson is a graduate of the University of Utah. She has worked as a broadcast journalist in Dallas, Seattle, Italy, and Salt Lake City. Amy, her husband, and three kids live in Summit County, Utah. Contact Amy on Facebook.com/theamyiverson

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