Marketing genius encourages young girls to read

Teaching Your Child

Teaching Your Child

January 11, 2008|By LISA TEDRICK PREJEAN

A few months ago I was lamenting the fact that my 8-year-old didn't like to read. Her older brother reads all the time, and I attribute that in part to the countless books we read to him.

By the time he was a preschooler, he insisted on having three picture books read every night. We wanted to be good parents, so we granted his request.

As our second-born grew, we weren't as consistent with the nightly readings. We would read to her most nights, but sometimes she would be too tired to listen to another story. We were tired, too, so we just tucked her in and kissed her goodnight.

So I was feeling quite guilty about my daughter's reading habits, or lack thereof, and was trying to figure out how to encourage her to read more.


I placed books on her nightstand, beside her seat in the van, on the end tables in the living room.

She expressed little interest.

On our weekly trips to the library, I would suggest that she select some books while she was waiting on her brother.

She just wanted to know if there were any new children's videos.

I would read the newspaper aloud to her and ask if she would like to read the story with me.

She just wanted to read the captions under photos.

My husband told me not to worry about it. Perhaps she just won't be a reader.

I couldn't accept that. I was working very hard, trying to figure out what she would like to read, when she made the discovery on her own.

One day as I was walking my class into the school library, I noticed all the third-grade girls rushing to the same bookshelf.

I wondered what the attraction was, but was initially busy helping other children find and sign out books.

As the girls got in line with their books, I noticed a common link. Almost all of them had at least one American Girl book.

My only experience with American Girl had been through the catalogs I received in the mail. I promptly tossed those in the trash. The catalog features high-end dolls and expensive doll clothes and accessories, and I was not going to spend more for a doll's dress than I do for my own.

Little did I know that there is a whole American Girl culture and we would soon become immersed in it.

Not that I'm complaining. My daughter, who recently turned 9, is reading, and what she has chosen to read is wholesome and educational. The books are intended for girls ages 9 and older.

The dolls are based on the main characters in the books. Outfits and accessories described in the books are available for purchase as well.

My brother, the accountant, calls this marketing genius.

I say if that's what it takes to encourage young girls to read, market on.

It's refreshing to hear my daughter and her friends talk about the characters and the various time periods. They speak of Colonial America, the Civil War and the Great Depression with familiarity.

My daughter's favorite character is Felicity, a young girl who lived in Williamsburg, Va., during Colonial times. In one of the storylines, Felicity and her friends share a joke that could only be understood with some historical knowledge.

One of their friends appears to be interested in a young man at a ball.

"I'm surprised she's interested in Father's apprentice," Felicity tells her friend, Elizabeth.

"Oh, dear. Is that your father's apprentice? He looks so different tonight. I'm afraid I confused him with the son of a wealthy Loyalist," Elizabeth confesses.

The princely looking fellow is actually a pauper. It's a joke that could be lost on 9-year-olds, but it might encourage a little historical research.

And that would be a good thing.

American Girl is sponsoring a "2008 Real Girl of the Year Award" contest. Adults can nominate girls ages 8 to 13 by stating how a girl demonstrates commitment, leadership, perseverance, spirit and realistic goal-setting.

For more information, go to

Send e-mail to Lisa Tedrick Prejean at

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