I know an awful lot of picky eaters. Kids who drive their parents to distraction by refusing to eat anything but the same 4 foods, prepared the same way, morning, noon and night. Oh, I know those kids. I’m raising those kids. God forbid I buy the wrong brand of chicken nugget or forget that crusts must be cut off of toast and sandwiches (but can be left on bread and butter!) My youngest daughter will only eat a bagel if I cut it into triangles. This week.
We all handle that picky-eater battleground in our own way, but what the experts tell us is that it takes time for kids to come around to new things. They tell us to make sure the kids are eating a fairly-well-balanced diet, introduce new things over and over next to familiar things, and be patient. They tell us to put out choices and let the kids choose what they like. They tell us to eat a variety of foods in front of our children and talk about how much we like them. And over time, the kids will get more adventurous, try new things, become teens and adults who love many kinds of food (and take pictures of it to post on instagram).
Picky readers are a lot like picky eaters. We can use a lot of the same tactics to help them, too. But it took me time to realize that – just like it took me time to realize that a diet of nuggets, mandarin oranges and noodles wasn’t going to ruin my child forever.
I admit that there are times when I look at the books my kids are reading and say “can’t you choose something a little more worthwhile?” or more to the point, “I am not buying another Barbie book. Ever.” I worry that if they read poorly written, highly commercial books now, they’ll never learn to enjoy the gourmet tastes of fine literature. If they refuse to read anything but comics now, they will miss out on the mental nutrition that can only be found in non-fiction.
The experts say I should stop worrying – and you should, too. The advice for parents of picky readers is much the same as that for picky eaters:
1. Make sure they’re reading something – anything – everyday.
2. Read a variety of books/materials in front of them – and talk about how much you enjoy them.
3. Let them choose books that appeal to them – even if that means relying on familiar characters and shiny packaging to get them excited.
4. Allow them to read the same books over and over – but offer other options right alongside them.
5. Be patient. Sooner or later, they will branch out into new reading material. And you can post a picture of it on instagram!
Are their picky readers in your house? What tickles their literary taste-buds and gets them excited to read? Is it a familiar favorite? Movie tie-ins? Tips to win their favorite video game? Something all their friends are reading? I can’t wait to hear what works for you!