In the world of children’s books, Dianne Ochiltree is a bronze, silver and gold medalist. Three of her 12 books have been honored by the Florida Book Awards. In 2015 her most recent work, “It’s a Seashell Day,” received the top award in the children’s literature category. Ochiltree talked about some things she’s learned in her 18 years as an author for kids.
1. Engage all their senses. Kids are more entertained that way, Ochiltree said. While reading, ask them what they think a particular detail smells, sounds and feels like.
2. It’s not about liking books, it’s about liking the subject matter. On book tours, kids tell her they don’t like reading because they don’t want to be writers. She tells them reading is just a basic skill, and you can never lose by being a good reader because there’s a book on every subject.
3. Model. Model. Model. Kids need to see their parents reading as early and as often as possible, she said. Newspapers, magazines, novels. Anything works. If they see you reading, they’ll instinctively pick up on how important it is.
4. The library is your friend. And the librarian your best friend. Even small libraries without a children’s librarian make an effort to program events for kids. Get them in there and familiarizing them with the checking out and library card process.
5. Apps are good. But books are better. Although kids can now read books on screen, nothing beats the real thing, especially for the younger kids who want to touch and feel the book.
6. Don't wait. Start reading to kids before they even know what a book is. And don’t just wait till bedtime. During bathtime? Why not?