By Kitty Felde

It’s the question that frustrates parents and teachers alike: how do you get a reluctant reader to pick up a book? How does a book compete with video games and Snapchat?

This month, we begin a new column in The Southwester: Young Readers. 

I’m Kitty Felde, host and executive producer of the Book Club for Kids, a free, 20 minute podcast where a trio of young readers discuss a book, interview the author, and hear a reading from the book by a celebrity. The Book Club for Kids is a previous winner of the Mayor’s Arts Award for Excellence in the Humanities.

Over the years, I’ve asked the experts – teachers and librarians – to share their best tips for cultivating readers. Every month, I’ll share their wisdom right here.

Our first tip comes from a librarian in Florida who says, “I dare you!”

That’s a schoolyard taunt that still has the power to provoke action. But can it get a kid to read a book?

Mimi Powell develops the young adult collection at an Orlando library. One of her most loyal patrons checked out stacks and stacks of books every week. His twin brother, meanwhile, would plop down near the circulation desk, bored to tears. Powell finally asked him why he never checked anything out. “I don’t like to read,” he told her.

Powell  asked the age-old question, “So what do you like?”

His answer? “Violent video games.”

Powell knew that he was trying to challenge her, daring her to find a book that would tempt him. She didn’t blink an eye. “I found a five-part series,” she said, “about these kids who got trapped in a video game and they had to fight aliens to make their way out.” That particular book is part of a series by Dustin Bradly called Trapped in a Video Game. The book went home with the reluctant twin.

Ask the question of your own less-than-enthusiastic reader: What do you like? And then share the information with the school librarian, or take a short field trip. The children’s librarian at our beautiful new Southwest library is just waiting for a challenge. Booksellers at our neighborhood bookstore Politics & Prose would love to find the perfect title for a non-book lover.

I double dare you.

Former public radio journalist Kitty Felde produces the Book Club for Kids podcast and The Fina Mendoza Mysteries podcast.

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