'The best books, reviewed with insight and charm, but without compromise.'
- author Jackie French

Wednesday 26 August 2020

Guest Post: Debbie D'Aurelio on How to Keep Kids Reading

Debbie D'Aurelio is a middle grade fiction author who as a child struggled with reading. Here she discusses why she feels its important to create books for kids who don't necessarily enjoy reading.

When authors write their backstory, they often describe how they were avid readers as children and couldn't get their hands on enough books. Many of them dreamed of becoming an author one day. I always wanted to be one of those people. I wanted to stroll around like Belle in Beauty in the Beast and never go anywhere without a book.

My backstory is a little different. I grew up in a very stressed-out household and I struggled with anxiety. I found it difficult to quiet my mind long enough to finish a chapter. Whenever I sat down to read, my mind wandered from one topic to another—yesterday's activities, today's to-do list, and tomorrow's worries. I'd end up reading the same paragraph over and over without comprehending it.

As an adult, I learned to quiet my mind and be in the moment long enough to enjoy reading both fiction and nonfiction. One strategy that helped me was doing short, daily meditation. I learned this technique in yoga classes, but today, the Internet has many resources that make meditation easy—even for kids. Many school counseling offices have set up Virtual Calming rooms full of relaxing music, nature sounds, guided meditation videos and even live animal cameras. A great one to visit is CNUSD Virtual Calming Room.

I also developed a couple of tricks to help me stay focused. An easy one is to use a reading guide. This can be a ruler or a white index card that the child moves down the page, line by line, as they read. Another trick to use when your mind decides to go for a stroll is to read out loud. The only drawback is that this works best when reading at home by yourself.

A surefire way to keep kids reading is to get them inspired by stories. Reading success depends on having access to books that match their interests and reading level. The recent growth of graphic novels and comic books has helped reluctant readers get excited about reading.

Teachers and librarians are excellent resources for finding the right books, but there are also free websites that provide book suggestions for kids. Goodreads.com has reviews for all genres of children's books. Some of their members compile lists, such as Best Books for Reluctant Readers and Twenty Children's book with Strong Female Characters, etc. Other websites that offer book reviews and recommendations include Commonsensemedia.org and Imaginationsoup.net.
When I started writing, The Secret Notebook, a mystery novel for kids ages 9 - 12, I wanted to make it accessible to all readers. I limited the number of characters, kept the chapters short and moved the story along quickly. I added interesting historical facts, humor and intrigue to keep children turning the pages. I know what it’s like to struggle with concentration, and I hope I’ve written a story kids can enjoy one chapter at a time.

Debbie D'Aurelio (a.k.a. D.A. D’Aurelio) lives in Atlanta, Georgia, USA with her husband and two children. Her novel, The Secret Notebook is published by Capstone Editions. Visit her at: www. debbiedaurelio.com