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When your kids go back to school they may be tempted to read less at home, so use these fun ideas to keep your family reading together. You'll help even reluctant readers get excited about books, create great family memories, and give your kids a helping hand with their schoolwork.Bring It to Life
Pick a book to read together, then use the theme to give your daily routines a literary twist. Choose pirate names for Treasure Island week or serve up pumpkin juice and "butterbeer" (cream soda with butterscotch syrup) for Harry Potter week. Dress up as your favorite characters, plan themed meals, or take a field trip that's based on the book -- to a historic site for Civil War on Sunday or a farm for Charlotte's Web.Join the Club
Starting a family book club is a surefire way to get your kids excited about reading. Pick a book that everyone can read on his or her own, then set a realistic deadline (and meeting date) based on the book's length and your readers' ages. To make it fun, create cool membership cards, dream up a secret handshake, and decorate a "speaking stick" to pass around when it's each family member's turn to talk about the book.Go with a Theme
If your family has a range of reading levels, it can be hard to choose one book that will satisfy everyone. Instead of making your high schooler read Junie B. Jones or your 10-year-old struggle through The Great Gatsby, let everyone vote on a theme. Try general topics like animal-themed stories or mysteries. Then help everyone find a book to read at her own pace. After you're done, have each person do a quick plot recap and then share what she liked about the book. It's fun to see how similar (or how different!) some of the details are.Turn On the Spotlight
If you'd rather read the same book, try reading it out loud to make it more manageable. First take a group vote on a few preselected titles. (Try the classics, because you can get abridged versions.) Then create a schedule for "Reader of the Day" and pick a time that's most convenient, like right after dinner. Quick readers can knock off a chapter or two while tentative readers can share a turn with Mom or Dad.
Just because your kids have required reading for school doesn't mean the whole family can't join in. If your high schooler is reading Romeo and Juliet, for example, check out Shakespeare Stories, by Leon Garfield, or rent a kid-friendly movie adaptation. You can also find stories to explore topics your kids are studying in other subjects. If your middle schooler's learning about life on the frontier, you might check out The Courage of Sarah Noble, by Alice Dalgliesh. Environmental issues in science? Try Carl Hiaasen's Hoot.Make It Fun
To make sure your family reading time feels less like school, get creative. Meet outside on a picnic blanket under shady trees or snuggle up together on the couch. Or try playing this simple but yummy game: Bake a batch of sugar cookies and use icing to write words like "plot," "character," and "theme." Then have each family member choose a cookie and talk about how that literary element showed up in the book.Stock Up
Load up on books, magazines, and newspapers -- even comic books. High-tech kids can check out pagebypagebooks.com to read classics online. Or try audio books, which you can download to an iPod or MP3 player. Be sure to offer varied subjects: Just because a child doesn't love fantasy doesn't mean he's not a reader -- he may prefer nonfiction tales of the Wild West or famous sports figures.
Originally published in Ladies' Home Journal, September 2009.