Look to literary role models: Insight from the Kids & Family Reading Report

Michael Barrett  //  Mar 2, 2017

Look to literary role models: Insight from the Kids & Family Reading Report

Did you know that parents greatly underestimate that kids need help finding books?

According the latest research from the Kids & Family Reading Report, only 29% of parents agree “my child has trouble finding books he/she likes,” whereas 41% of kids say finding books they like is a challenge— and this percentage of kids increases to 57% among infrequent readers (reads less than one day a week) in comparison to 26% of frequent readers (reads 5–7 days a week).

We have a great way to help you find an engaging book for a kid at any age - even for the most reluctant reader. Our advice: introduce kids to literary role models. Stories and characters address so many challenges that may be hard for your child to tackle on their own, making them a great resource as he or she navigates growing up. And kids are drawn to these type of characters! Our research shows both kids and parents want characters that are “smart, brave or strong” (35% among kids ages 6–17; 41% among parents), as well as a character who “faces challenges and overcome them.”

As kids face a current world of uncertain times, literary role models can take many shapes and help kids connect with the power and joy of reading.

Whenever I felt the world was in crisis, I vividly remember turning to strong, brave characters in books. I vividly recall admiring Grace’s fortitude and strength in Amazing Grace as a child or Tacky from Tacky the Penguin's perservance to be an individual. As I reflect, this was a time when I found the news to be “scary,” as I recall seeing images of the first Iraq War on television. This prompted me to ask my fellow OOM bloggers what books they suggest to help children discover “smart, strong brave characters” in kid's liteature:

Jo: “I loved Madeline growing up. I find her to be such a great literary role model because she’s brave, funny, curious, friendly and an amazing problem solver. I recall in one book Madeline has her appendix removed and afterward she shows her friends the scar from her surgery – this stuck out to me because she’s embracing her new imperfection, something that I find so brave for such a young character."

Brittany:  “Matilda was my reading role model. She made reading seem like it was a door the led to new possibilities.”

Julia:  “As a kid I liked female characters that were enterprising, smart, creative or sassy. So my favorites were Harriet the Spy, Ramona Quimby, Anne of Green Gables and Laura from Little House on the Prairie.

Deimosa: "Annie John by Jamaica Kincaid, Liesel from The Book Thief, Markus Zusak, Susan from Stargirl, Jerry Spinelli, and Ramona from Ramona the Brave, by Beverly Cleary"

Karen: “Anne of Green Gables, Lucy Maude Montgomery and Lyra from The Golden Compass, Philip Pullman”

Tim:  “Kevin and Maxwell from Freak the Mighty, by Rodman Philbrick and Jeffrey from Maniac Magee, Jerry Spinelli

Alex:  “A character that I think makes a great role model is Groovy Joe. The book teaches kids that it’s ‘awesome to share.’ My nephew can’t get enough of the book and at two-and-half-years old, he even understands what it means to share thanks to Groovy Joe!

Be sure to check out other titles from Scholastic that feature smart, strong and brave characters to add to your home bookshelf:

  • Shadowshaper, by Daniel José Older
  • The Revolution of Evelyn Serrano, by Sonia Manzano
  • The Lightning Queen, Laura Resau
  • Space Dumplins, Craig Thompson
  • Threatened, by Eliot Schrefer

To learn more about the Scholastic Kids & Family Reading Report, visit www.scholastic.com/readingreport.