by Bruce Lansky

If your kids aren’t enjoying reading by the age of 7, don’t give up. You might just need a new approach. My son didn’t read much until he discovered the “Garfield” cartoon books. After that, he found “The Far Side” cartoon books and then Dave Barry’s humor books. From there, the problem became getting him to [I]stop[I] reading so much. He went on to write a humor book at the age of 17 and a nationally syndicated adventure travel column in his twenties; now he’s an international bestselling author and speaker on the college and corporate circuits.

How can you turn a “don’t want to” reader into a “can’t stop” reader?

First of all, don’t make reading a “chore” or a “have to” activity. Instead, read to your child at bedtime. Better yet, read [I]with[I] him or her. For example:

Never give up on putting new books, newspaper articles or interesting web content in front of your child’s eyeballs. Take your child to the bookstore or library and let him or her pick out any book, audio book, magazine, or newspaper that’s of interest. If your child likes cooking, pick out interesting recipes or cookbooks. If your child likes sports, offer up the sports section in the newspaper or e-mail an article about a favorite ballplayer. If your child is observant and clever, bring home a “Can You Solve the Mystery?”™ book and pick out a story that might be of interest. For example, if your daughter has a sweet tooth, try “The Case of the Chocolate Snatcher.” If your son loves video games, try “The Case of the Video Game Smuggler.”

Think about this: Most children crave attention from their parents. By spending time reading books and solving mysteries together, you’ll be giving your child what he or she really wants. In trade, you’ll get what you want (your child to enjoy reading).

Now let’s talk briefly about how to turn your child into a creative problem solver (aka detective). After reading some stories from the “Can You Solve the Mystery?”™ series and discussing possible solutions (prior to reading the “mirror type” solution printed in the book), your child will be ready for some easy cases around your house, such as:

Suggest that your child ask, “What would Hawkeye and Amy do?” Here are few actions they might take that your child can do, too:

By asking your child to help you solve a real mystery, you are demonstrating your faith in his or her intelligence and judgment. Just as reading together will help your child pick up the reading habit, solving simple mysteries together will help your child solve creative problems that arise every day.