Raising Readers by Madeleine Riley

Today we’re talking about raising readers — something that I’m definitely not an expert in, but nonetheless a topic that I love to talk about with the parents in my life. As a teacher, I get asked this question all the time. “How can I make my child love reading?”

From an educational perspective, I go with the statistics — parents who are readers themselves and who show their children that reading has inherent value in their lives, often raise independent and enthusiastic readers. Children learn by example, so when we show them that reading is fun, they come to see it as a hobby worth their time. Today I’ve asked Caroline, whom you may know on Instagram as @readtotheend. Caroline first came to my attention as an enthusiastic member of the Diverse Books Club. Her daughter, Chloe, has her own #bookstagram account, @chloebookworm, where she frequently shares the books she’s reading. I love seeing young readers like Chloe sharing their books! Below they share some of their tips, tricks, and recommendations.

Interview with Caroline on Raising Readers

Caroline, tell us a little about yourself!

I'm a working mom of 2 kids - a son who is 12 and a daughter who is 8. I'm an avid home cook and baker as well and also for fun follow national food days (I know, a strange hobby).

Tell us about your grown-up reading life! What kind of books do you like to read? When and where do you get your reading done?

I like to read mostly contemporary fiction and love to read authors of color, especially Asian American authors. I didn't come across an Asian American author until I was a senior in high school and it was mind blowing to me.  I also am obsessed with reading the book before watching the movie, so if I get my hands on a list for the coming season, I will prioritize those.  It's a treat to myself to go to the movie.  I started this when my children were small and I needed any excuse to have some "me" time and get away from them!  I tend to read in parking lots, waiting for my children to finish their activities or in the evenings after dinner and dishes are put away. It's a way to unwind.  

How do you go about raising readers? Do both of your children enjoy reading? How does reading factor into your family time?

I try to raise readers by modeling it myself.  They see me tear through books. They see me update my Goodreads. They see me groan about getting through books I don't love and they see me finish a book and talk nonstop about it at dinner.  My daughter enjoys reading a lot but I'm not sure if she truly LOVES it or if she does it as a way to bond with me  - she's a pleaser by nature. I do think she likes it but I'm not sure she would read to the degree that she does without my encouragement.  My son really resists reading. He is a strong reader, especially in comprehension but he just doesn't like to sit down and read.  I've spent so much of my energy trying to find ways to engage him and again, I think that's why Chloe, my daughter, likes to swoop in and have that connection with me.  For Joshua,my son, I have tried incentives like read the book and then go to the movies WITH a friend AND concessions AND without your sister tagging along!! I really have to sell it!  Our family time is not affected so much by reading but often you'll find me and Chloe reading in bed on a rare weekend morning. I try NOT to make reading a chore but rather an enhancement or even a way of life.

Do you have a hand in picking books for Chloe, or do you let her read whatever catches her eye?

I do both. At the library, I let her pick whatever she wants.  I do sometimes direct her attention by just getting books for her.  Reading along with the Diverse Books Club has been so fun for us this summer because she also gets great satisfaction from crossing things off a list so the summer reading guide was really fun to work through together.  She's an old pro at getting the holds off the hold shelf at our library and when she doesn't recognize something she's picked, she says "Is this for DBC?"  I also let her know that it's ok not to love all books.  I think at first when I started asking her about books she would be shy to say she didn't like a book. I try to steer the conversation to - what did you like about this book? What didn't work for you?  We talk about how it is someone's hard work so we don't want to be disrespectful but not all books have to be for all people.

If you had to give one piece of advice to new (or hopeful) parents, what would you say about raising readers?

I would advise new or hopeful parents to not force reading.  I try not to make it a chore.  I will use incentives or motivate them to try new things but ultimately, if it feels like a punishment I fear they will hate reading even more.  I have to remember that while I would love for both my kids to be book lovers, it may not be their path.  They have their own interests and hobbies and just like I don't force them to play a certain sport or instrument, I try not to force reading as a hobby on them.  I do require a certain amount because it is related to schoolwork and competence but I can only hope they will take on more for enjoyment.

Interview with Chloe on Being a young reader

Chloe, tell us about yourself! 

Well, I'm a dancer and model and I love to read as you already know!  I am 8 years old and going into the 3rd grade this year.

Tell us about your reading life! You read a lot! How do you choose which books to read? When do you find time to read?

Well, my mom is a reader and she is always reading and so I want to read with her so I just started and I kept reading and then I started my own bookstagram.  Also, my mom and I will go to the library together and sometimes she picks books out for me and sometimes I pick books out for myself! Whenever I am not at school or at dance, I'll usually use that time to read a nice book.  

Where do you get the books you read? A bookstore? The library?

I find my books at my local library.  At that library, there is a bookstore too and sometimes I will get books from there too.

You have a knack for getting fellow readers excited about books! Do you share your book recommendations with your friends, too?

Well, some of my dance friends follow me on my bookstagram but my school friends aren't all on Instagram but they see what I'm reading at my desk.  My mom will tell my friend's moms good books that their kids will like. 

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Tell us three books you've loved so far this year and why!

I am really into graphic novels right now but here are my 3 favorites - 

  1. Invisible Emmie by Terri Liebenson because there are parts of the book where she finds out she can just be herself and I love that message!

  2. Phoebe and Her Unicorn by Dana Simpson because the unicorn in this book is really different - she is very stuck up and that's kind of why I like her! She's funny and people usually think unicorns are beautiful and sweet and happy but this one is not!

  3. Olga series by Elise Gravel because I love all the made up words in this book. Reminds me of the BFG. 

I also love art and love to draw so I think I really like looking at the artwork in graphic novels. It's so good!

Chloe, if you were giving advice about spreading a love for reading, what would you say?

I would tell people that if you don't like reading, think of it as you being the author. If there aren't any pictures, make the pictures up in your head - it can help!  

Thank you, Caroline and Chloe!

Do you have any tips for raising readers? Share below!

Your New Online Book Club: Words Between Worlds by Madeleine Riley


Do you belong to a book club? One of the best things I’ve done for my reading life in the past couple years was to join several book clubs — I dabble in each of them when it works for my reading life, but even when I don’t get to read the monthly selection, I still love getting to hear the conversation. The great thing about online book clubs is that you can be part of the conversation on your own schedule, and still feel connected to readers all over the world. Today I want to introduce you to an Instagram-based book club that I love to follow — Words Between Worlds. The team of ladies behind this club care deeply about raising up new voices in literature, and I encourage you to check it out and join in. I asked one of the moderators — Diana, of @owls_library — to join me for a quick interview. Onto all the details!

Tell us a little about yourself!

Hello! My name is Diana from @owls_library. I'm originally from Logan, UT but also spent my teenage years in Gwangju, S. Korea. I currently (reluctantly) live in Dallas, TX.  My BS is in Early Childhood Education from BYU but I currently am not using my teaching degree and instead work at a skincare company. Like many of you, I am an avid reader and especially love reading books written by authors of color. Other than reading, I enjoy writing, eating, traveling, and am in love with chocolate!

Tell us about your reading life! What's important to you when selecting a book to read?

I tend to lean towards books written by multicultural authors. I've always been passionate reading about immigrants in America. Just the thought of so many different ethnicities, cultures living in one country fascinates me.  The first 20-ish years of my life, I was not exposed to diversity — I spent my early years in Utah, a very white state. And then my teenage years in South Korea and though I love many things about my motherland, it is a homogeneous country that is still pretty closed-minded of accepting anything or anyone that is different. So when I moved to Dallas five years ago, a very diverse city, I was fascinated by the different types of people I met and wanted to hear their stories. 

When and how did you come up with the idea for forming Words Between Worlds?

WBW happened all because of Lee Min Jin's Pachinko. I read it summer of 2017 and was madly in love with the book. When an Asian author, especially a fellow Korean author comes out with a book, I'm naturally already intrigued. But, Min Jin Lee covered three generations of Koreans (in Japan) starting from the dark days of colonialism, the Korean War, and the aftermath of the two wars. Pachinko was such a powerful book because it was so personal to me. Though it was a work of fiction, it almost seemed like I was reading my grandparents' and my parents' past.

I then started talking to Haley from @mylittlebooktique and Simone from @simoneandherbooks a lot! Because all three of us are Korean, Pachinko meant a lot to us. We then discussed how it'd be nice of authors of color/ minorities' stories to be more well-known to the public. Though we've seen some improvement, the publishing industry still is very white and has made little progress to diversify, especially racially. We then decided to start an online bookclub that would focus on recognizing and promoting marginalized voices, especially minorities in America. When America is a country made up of people from all different parts of the world, it saddens me knowing that so many voices are still unheard and we wanted to change that with a bigger goal to change the publishing industry! 

Tell us about your WBW team! Do you each have a specific role?

The three moderators are Haley, Simone, and myself! We're still trying to figure out our roles. WBW was an idea that suddenly "happened" without much thinking. We do not have defined roles but naturally Haley (from @mylittlebooktique) takes a lot of our photos, Simone (from @simoneandherbooks) played a huge role making our Goodreads page happen (but sadly, we're going away from Goodreads). She also comes up with captions for our posts and discussion questions. I communicate with authors and publishers for future books. We all help out to manage our account here and there as well. 

We also have Miriam (@guatemamma_reads), Stacey (from @prose_and_palate), Jamise (from @spinesvines), Lois (@all26letters) and Katie (@katie_in_sandiego) that help us too! When we first came out with the idea, I asked them if they wanted to join (I honestly didn't think WBW would get this big and imaged it'd be a smaller, more intimate group) and they said yes! They provide ideas and help with the selections as well. And they are awesome promoting WBW on social media!

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How do you go about deciding the monthly selections for WBW?

Since Min Jin Lee inspired us to start WBW, we started with her book Free Food for Millionaires. From then on, we decide to rotate continents/ ethnicities while focusing on our main purpose of WBW, "whose voice needs to be heard?" We then all met online and had a great "meeting" and planned out the rest of the year. We're also looking into 2019 and what we'll be reading them. Our focus is to also play along with the different holidays that come up throughout the year making sure to celebrate authors and writing in those months.

We've also been extremely lucky enough to work with authors and publishers as well. So, if we are contacted with a book that would be a good fit for WBW, we will add it to our list but make sure not to read a book by similar ethnic groups twice in a row.

Can you tell us your favorite WBW book so far?

All WBW books have been so good and unique, but if I had to pick one, it'd be Speak No Evil. It was a book that evoked so many emotion. Though a YA book, it covered so many important themes - immigration, traditional and cultural clashes of immigrants of 1st generations, and it also sadly, yet accurately, portrayed  events that happen in this very country we live in because of prejudice and racial discrimination. I HIGHLY recommend this book to all! And the teacher in me also thinks Speak No Evil should be a mandatory read for high schoolers! 

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What have you learned so far in running Words Between Worlds? Have there been any particularly powerful moments relating to your WBW experience?

We've definitely learned a lot in the past seven months. One is wrangling friends online to discuss the books at the end of the month! Another one is picking books that are coming out but also looking back and seeing books published years before. We want the books we choose to be accessible and sometimes library holds can be too long for our participants. We hope to pick some older books in the future and announcing books in the middle of the month to give our readers a chance to get the book.

We've also taken some cues from other online book clubs like Diverse Books Club and Salt Water Reads to see how we want to organize our discussions and important announcements.

I think the most surprising moment for us is how people react to the books we choose. We use #wordsbetweenworlds as a hashtag and seeing month over month who reads our books. Sometimes the reaction is a little low, but when we announce a book or start a new month and we see all the great participants, we knew we were onto something. We were empowering people to read diversely and sharing the marginalized voices like we wanted to. It's incredible to watch people pick up these reads and share their feelings and relate to the stories. I think that's what we love the most.

Last question — we love to recommend books here on Top Shelf Text. Can you tell us some of your overall favorites?

Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi

Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

Pachinko by Min Jin Lee

A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini

All the Ugly and Wonderful Things by Bryn Greenwood

Thank you to Diana and the WBW team for sharing! If you’ve participated in the Words Between Worlds book club before, I’d love to hear which books were your favorite!

I'd Rather Be Reading by Madeleine Riley

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Thank you to Baker Books for providing me with a free copy of this book!

This summer I've been thinking often about my reading identity, so bear with me here as I mix my own reading life into my thoughts on Anne Bogel's latest book, I'd Rather Be Reading

This collection of essays on the delights and dilemmas of the reading life came into the world yesterday, but it's held a special place on my nightstand lately. Anne Bogel, creator of Modern Mrs. Darcy and the What Should I Read Next? podcast, writes thoughtfully and beautifully on what it means to be a reader.

Being a reader is a little more complicated than it seems -- at first glance, being a reader just means that you like to read, and do it for pleasure. Whether you read one book per year or over one hundred, if you enjoy the act of reading, you are a reader. But your reading identity can run deeper than this simple descriptor -- mine certainly does.

I am a reader who loves a good mystery and a good children's classic. Who prefers to read in silence (or perhaps, with only the sound of waves crashing), who loves to share book recommendations but is reluctant to lend my own books for fear that I'll miss them too much. I am a reader who always carries a book, even if I'm just heading out to buy groceries. I am a reader who takes regular trips to the library, despite the hundreds (yes, hundreds) of unread books in my personal library.

In I'd Rather Be Reading, Anne writes about everything from how to organize your bookshelves, to being book bossy (I am so guilty, by the way), and classic bookworm problems. Just the other day as I drove home from the library, my car began to beep because the weight of my books was heavy enough to necessitate a seatbelt. I laughed because Anne wrote about this very problem and I knew she (and many of you) would understand.

Anne writes in a way that confirms what many of us (her friends and fans) already know: that there are countless kindred spirits out there who also would rather be reading. This book feels like a wink and a nod to all of us. I'm honored to put another one of Anne's books on my friends and family shelf. 

Bottom-Line Rating: 5/5