Whether your child has been a book worm all summer or taken a break, the fall means it's time to focus on building reading skills again and the Free Library of Philadelphia is great resource for parents in addition to school.

We asked Valerie Taylor-Samuel, Assistant Chief of Youth Services and Programs at the Free Library, to tell us more about library programs and make book recommendations that will get children motivated to read.

What kind of resources does the library offer families to encourage reading?

The Free Library has many programs and services for families. We offer everything from incredible books for all ages to borrow to programs like story times, book clubs, and reading to dogs. We also offer reading supports for K-3rd graders such as Literacy Lab and Philadelphia Reading Coaches. In addition, the library has digital resources for children like BookFlix and Tumblebooks, e-books books that afford families an alternative to traditional books. Audiobooks are another great option, for road trips or simply listening to at home.

What tips do you offer parents if reading seems more of a chore than a fun activity for their elementary school-aged child?

People learn and read in different ways. For the reluctant reader, the technology approach is a great option. Reading on a Kindle or iPad might be more appealing to a reluctant reader and digital resources offer an interactive approach that will bring a story alive. Another tip is to find books on topics that a child has an interest or passion about. Some children enjoy funny stories while others want to read about dinosaurs or someone famous. The more interest you have the more you read!

What books do you recommend for a child who is entering the age of reading more chapter books, but falling behind peers with reading?

Graphic novels or illustrated stories such as Sankichi Hinodeya's Splatoon (featuring characters from a video game) or Jeff Kinney's Diary of a Wimpy Kid series do a good job telling the story with words and pictures and do not seem to be overwhelming with a lot of print on a page.

Series chapter books create a familiarity with readers, following the adventures of characters from book to book which can be reassuring to reluctant or struggling readers. Beverly Cleary's Ramona books stand the test of time and continue to be popular with today's young readers. Mo Willem's Elephant & Piggie series helps to develop a confidence in reading with a few words on each page and fun stories for readers.

We also recommend diverse books—our world, our country, our cities have diverse populations. A reluctant or struggling reader might take an interest in reading about characters that look like them, or be interested in learning about characters that look like classmates, neighbors, or people in their community from other backgrounds or situations. Check out Ruby and the Booker Boys by Derrick D. Barnes, Alvin Ho by Lenore Look, The Carver Chronicles by Karen English, or Juana & Lucas by Juana Medina.

Poetry can also be an inroad. Poems are shorter, but with a lot of ideas put into a few words. There are children's poets who have collections of funny poems that appeal to all children: Jack Prelutsky's "My Parents Think I'm Sleeping" or Shel Silverstein's "Sick" capture the humorous spirit of children when faced with having to do something they don't want to do.

What tips to do you generally offer parents to nurture a love for reading? What are some good book series for beginning readers?

  • Lead by example! When your child sees you reading and enjoying it, there is a greater chance they will read.
  • Read together! This can help build confidence in your child's reading.
  • Talk about the story. While reading, stop and talk about what's happening. Who are the characters? Ask your child to predict what might happen next.
  • Choose diverse books. How wonderful is it for your child to see themselves reflected in a story? Diverse books also help prepare children for life in a diverse world.
  • Read books more than once. Younger children enjoy hearing or reading the same story again and again. Older children can gain fresh insights from repeated reading.

Some book series we recommend for beginning readers are:

  • Jerdine Nolen's Bradford Street Buddies – Grades 1-3
  • Dan Gutman's My Weird School – Grades 1-3
  • Kara LaReau's Infamous Ratsos – Grades 2-4
  • Dori Hillestad Butler's King and Kayla- Grades 2-4
  • Dav Pilkey's Captain Underpants – Grades 1-5

Stop by your neighborhood library for more great recommendations for your child!