Would your child rather empty the dishwasher or fold laundry instead of reading a book? Do you have to beg your child to sit down and read—for school or for pleasure? When you see other kids with their noses in books, do you wonder why you never see your own children doing the same? It’s difficult to know how to react when your child hates reading, and even harder to figure out how to motivate children to read. Try these simple, but meaningful steps to help move your reluctant reader toward a book-filled future:
Zero in on the child’s interests. Before you do anything, take a step back and examine what interests, excites or intrigues your child. Knowing what interests him can help you pinpoint what types of texts he may enjoy reading.
Start small. Just because your child likes to ride horses doesn’t mean he needs to start by reading The A-Z History of Horseback Riding; that may be intimidating—especially for a reluctant reader. Instead, consider watching a horse race with your child. Talk about the jockeys, the scores, the owners and the trainers. The next day, read the box scores in the newspaper or watch a movie about horses, like Seabiscuit. Then, closely examine the box scores or find a short nonfiction article about a related topic, like the Triple Crown or famous jockeys like Red Pollard or George Woolf. An interactive, reliable, and safe resource online, such as American Experience: Seabiscuit, can also be an engaging and interesting bridge toward books for reluctant readers.
If the topic of interest doesn’t lend itself to watching a related program or movie, start small by finding a magazine or graphic novel at the library that relates to the subject. Reading doesn’t need to begin with a chapter book; many other texts and various genres can be worthwhile for these readers.
Practice shared reading. Shared reading or reading as a collective experience could entail taking turns reading pages, sections or chapters, or you and your child silently reading the same book. Shared reading can vary depending on your child’s age and needs.
Shared reading is an often-overlooked and underappreciated technique for engaging reluctant readers. Most kids really want to spend time with their parents, but once children reach seven or eight years old, many parents don’t view reading together as an option; they think that’s reserved for preschool or early elementary school days.
For the ideal shared reading experience, choose texts that are rich, engaging and sure to lead to discussion. Part of the “sharing” in shared reading involves talking about the book. Perhaps several of your child’s friends and their parents can start a book club where texts read through shared reading are discussed in a welcoming environment. If book groups are not an option, find a reliable, child-safe website where your child can post a review of that book or encourage him or her to start a book review journal.
Reluctant readers are often struggling readers, so creating safe, comfortable environments where fluent reading is modeled and where children are set up for success is key. Though there is definitely not an easy answer, with a little focus and direction, you can help give your child the reading boost he needs. It’s not magic, but every little step helps.