By Kitty Felde 

The warm-up assignment for my writing group was simple: write a book review for a novel that doesn’t exist. We all immediately put pen to paper, creating really awful reviews for even more awful books.

We all rely on reviews. Not just book reviews to help us find our next great read, but also to choose the best new restaurant at The Wharf, or the best vacuum cleaner under $200, or the best yoga class in DC. 

Reviews can also be used to tempt kids to read.

Step one: ask a reluctant reader what they are passionate about. Movies in the Marvel universe? There are hundreds of movie reviews online. Legos? Product reviews can be found online wherever those little plastic pieces are sold. Is there a young athlete in your house? Have them read the reviews to find the healthiest sports drink.

Or task them with reading online vehicle reviews to guide your purchase of a future new car. Or have them find reviews of various breakfast cereals to guide your next trip to the grocery store. You can have them dig through reviews to research the best rewards program for a new credit card.

There are Yelp reviews for bakeries, Tripadvisor reviews for travel destinations, movie reviews on Rotten Tomatoes…you get the idea.

Then take it one step further: challenge that child to identify which reviews are fake (bought and paid for) and which ones are legitimate. This way, you are not only encouraging careful reading, you’re teaching media literacy as well.

Just don’t call it reading. Call it research.

Kitty Felde is host and executive producer of the Book Club for Kids podcast, the free 20-minute show where kids talk about books.

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