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Giving kids the book edge

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There’s something about children and books. The two seem to go hand in hand since youngsters are captivated by the colourful illustrations in a picture book--and gobble up the words that are read to them.

But how do you keep them interested in a book when the TV set and computer games often hold more appeal? That’s the challenge many library assistants face as students wander into school libraries looking for something that tickles their fancy.

The secret, they all agree, is to feed their imagination when the students are young.

Judy Johanson at Alexander Mackenzie School noted it’s never been a problem keeping students there interested, with the school housing students up to grade three.

"They love books, love to be read to. And I think that’s the key," she enthused.

"With the younger kids, they’re really excited," echoed Jackie Dupuis, who works at both Sixth Street School and J.W. Walker. "But I notice a big difference if they’re read to at home."

And reading at home is something Debbie Deschamps at Alberton School encourages to help instill good reading habits. Even if the youngsters can’t read, she said they are able to identify some words--and that’s a start.

At the Fort Frances Public Library, children’s library assistant Andrea Avis said their "Tales for Twos" and Storytime programs were ways of getting parents reading to the children.

"They’re excited about the books," she said, noting the challenge was to keep that enthusiasm alive as they get older.

For those who don’t enjoy reading, or have difficulty with it, Deschamps suggested starting them out at a lower reading level so they have a chance to build their confidence.

And it doesn’t have to be a lot of time, she noted. Maybe 10-15 minutes before bed reading something the child is interested in.

As the students grow up, so does the challenge of keeping them interested in books. But Dupuis admitted it made things easier if they had been read to outside of school.

"That’s why it’s so important to get them reading when they’re little," echoed Deschamps.

Equally crucial is finding something they want to read. Sometimes that’s as simple as putting out a magazine or setting up a book display.

"I’ve had a lot of success with Bigfoot and the Loch Ness monster here," Deschamps noted, with some of the earth’s mysteries or historical events also able to capture kids’ attention.

She also tries to get the students involved in discussion by reading excerpts stating different views and asking what they thought.

"They started coming to me with the books and with the magazine articles," she enthused.

About two years ago, J.W. Walker hosted Canadian author Eric Wilson, and Dupuis noted she saw an increase in book circulation after that. The students wanted to read what Wilson had talked about.

"Some of them had read a few of his books earlier," she added.

But Dupuis stressed it was mostly trial-and-error to find ways to get students reading.

"Some kids are interested, some kids are not. And it’s really hard to get the ones who are not interested interested," she reasoned.

"You just try anything and everything."

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