As a former English teacher and an all-around lover of books, I think building a LOVE of books in your kids is very important. I was lucky with my older son, as he seemed to naturally inherit my love of books. Reading came easily to him, and I have never had to work to get him to read! But, what do you do with a reluctant reader? The one for whom reading is something you do only when you have to? I have some ideas…
First of all, the best way to encourage any child to read is to read to them. Yes, even older kids love to be read to. When I was teaching middle school I always scheduled at least 10 minutes of read-aloud for every class. This was a time when kids could just relax and listen, without having to worry about a quiz or a discussion afterwards. I tried to choose books that appealed to my students interest, and often, I would try to read the first book in a series, in order to whet their appetites for more. Many times, students would go to the library to check out the next book in the series in order to find out what happened!
Another important factor is linking books to your childrens interests. My younger son enjoys action, as well as true-life biographies. He also loves skateboarding, Star Wars, Legos and mysteries, so I spend a LOT of time looking for books related to that. If I can find a book on one of those topics, he will read it! I love my online library search engine, as it allows me to look for books by topic. I often search my library catalog while also checking amazon.com and the Barnes and Noble website at the same time. This allows me to get a more thorough summary of the book, while also reading reviews written by readers. This helps me to narrow down and choose books that I know will fit my child.
I also have another rule in my house: you CANNOT see a movie based on a book until you have read the book itself!! Usually, movies leave out SO MANY amazing parts. I want my children to experience the WHOLE story. So, before seeing the Narnia or Hobbit movies, my kids have to read the books, either with me or on their own. Most of the time, afterwards, my kids agree the book was much better!