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Words have power. Words open doors and change the world. Your world. Which is why reading is so important. Frederick Douglass said it best:

Once you learn to read, you will be forever free.

Boy's imagination while reading

Those who acquire the love of reading revel in the freedom it brings every time we open a book.

Girl reading a bookWhat about those who have yet to discover the wonder of reading, how can we get them hooked?

I’m sure dissertations have been written on this topic,Boy reading a book backed with data from scientific studies.

I’m no expert. But the following suggestions have worked well for hooking reluctant readers.

Hook ‘Em with Poetry … Yes, Poetry

I didn’t realize poetry was a significant gateway for reluctant readers until I heard Kwame Alexander speak at Kepler’s Books. He was there to promote The Playbook: 52 Crossover coverRules To Aim, Shoot, and Score in This Game Called Life.

During the course of the evening, Kwame related his winning experiences at getting “at risk” youth excited about reading … using poetry. He explained that poetry hooks reluctant readers, because it’s short and easy to read. Once youngsters feel the satisfaction of finishing a book, they are quicker to pick up the next one.

Kwame Alexander’s Newberry Award winning book, The Crossover, is written entirely in verse and has hooked hundreds (if not thousands) of kids on reading. Kwame followed that success with Booked, a novel in verse about a star soccer player who is also a reluctant reader. Another winner for converting real-life reluctant readers.

Ellen Hopkins‘ immensely popular Crank Series is written entirely in verse, as well. Crank, the first book of the series, is required reading in many high schools. However, this series is for a more mature audience due to its focus on drug addiction.

The Power of Picture Books … Read Aloud

Reading to children when they are young is the best way to hook them on reading. Picture books provide a wonderful interactive forum for storytelling. For children that are too young to read, they can be engaged in the story, which inspires the desire to be able to read on their own one day.

As Emilie Buchwald said:

Children are made readers on the laps of their parents.

However, reading in blanket forts works its own special magic.

The magic factor for reading is “fun”. Make story time a fun activity and children will fall in love with reading…for life. If you don’t know “what” to read for a particular age group, ask your local librarian. Librarians have a wealth of knowledge they are happy to share.

Kwame Alexander supersized the fun with audience participation and musical accompaniment (by Randy Preston) as he read from his picture book Surf’s Up at Kepler’s Books. Appropriately enough, Surf’s Up is a delightful story about two frogs, an adventure, and falling in love with reading.