... and instill a love of reading.
I think my favorite exercise, as a writer, is to make up a story based off of an image. A picture, by itself, they say, is worth a thousand words. But, when that picture is designed to represent a story, it's worth about 50,000 words.
We do it, almost automatically, in our minds. Why is this person here? What is he doing? What's going to happen next?
Except, we stop ourselves. The story has already has already been told. If we want to know what it's about, we just have to open the book and read it.... right?
A good author understands that he or she can't really tell the whole story. The unfolding is really a partnership between the author and the reader. The author provides a framework, a roadmap. The reader creates for his or herself all the detailed experiences along the way. We typically do this alone, in our minds. But, unlike any other media, a book can allow two people to share their unique experience along a common path.
It works great with kids. They have no inhibitions about exploring the unknown together. Adults have gotten used to being led by the hand: to be passive in their relationship to an information source. But, imagine sitting down together with someone you really like. Pick up a paperback that has an interesting image on the cover. Then, ask, out loud, who do you suppose this person is? Then, let the conversation explode with evaluation, speculation, fantasy and imagination. Regardless of what you may get to know about the story in the book, you'll get to know a lot more of the story in this other person.