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Learning How to Read: 10 Ways to Help a Reluctant Reader
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I remember when my now 10-year-old didn’t like books. And when my now 7-year-old didn’t want to read. She’d happily listen to a story, but reading on her own? Not so much.
Guess what my favorite activity is? Reading. And I’m an elementary school teacher. How could my kids not like reading?
Each of my kids disliked reading for different reasons, so for your own child, the solution might not be a one-size-fits-all approach. Read on for 10 clever, easy tricks that might just turn your kid on to reading.
Break the Bedtime Rules
This is a great way to get kids reading. Since almost no kid wants to go to sleep right away, give your child the choice between going to bed or staying up late to read a book. Breaking the rules might just motivate your child to read.
Oh, and skip buying a reading lamp. Buy a headlamp—the light is brighter and covers a wider area. Then kids can also read in the car at night (including during longer trips where it’s tempting to let them overdose on video games or movies), in a tent or in a cabin at camp, or when staying over with friends or relatives.
Try Comics and Graphic Novels
Comics and graphic novels (full-length comic-style stories) don’t deserve the lack of status they’ve traditionally been given as resources for reading. Both are stories told in a visual format and very much count as reading.
Read a Banned Book
For some reluctant readers, reading a banned book dangles irresistible forbidden fruit. I have a selfish reason for doing this with my kids: I usually love all the banned books. They make me think.
Kids love technology. Use that love to develop a love for reading, too. There are good electronic books (e-books) that kids can read on Kindle, Nook, iPad, a laptop or desktop computer, or even on a mobile device like an iPod Touch.
Read Books with Movies
Want to see the movie? Read the book first. Or vice-versa. Then have fun comparing them. What was in the book that wasn’t in the movie? Did the movie match the way your child imagined things? Which one did your child like better, and why? (In my humble opinion, usually the book beats the movie hands-down.)
Form a Family-Friendly Book Club
Starting a mother-daughter book club encouraged my reluctant reader. We formed the club about midway through her year in first grade. She and I took turns reading chapters to each other, which was lovely bonding time. We read one or two chapters a day, which made it manageable to finish the book within the allotted time. The reward of seeing friends, playing, eating snacks, and having a little chat about the book was extremely motivating—and why I recommend book clubs for reluctant readers.
Most kids are silly. Get books that will crack your kids up—no matter their age, gender, or interest. When in doubt, go for potty humor, especially with boys. If that doesn’t work, try joke books.
You Start, They Finish
I do this all the time. I’ll start reading a book I think my daughter will like. My goal is to her hooked on the story. Then, I suddenly get “busy” so that we stop reading it. Often, not too long after, she just cannot resist that book—she has to see what happens. Diabolical? Oh, yeah. (And it totally works!)
Shell Out Book Bucks
Give your child money to spend on books—either at the bookstore or at a yard sale. With young children, instead of money, give them a “book buck” worth one book of their choosing.
Read the TV
One of my blog readers lets her son watch SpongeBob SquarePants without sound. It’s the only way she’ll let him watch cartoons because she makes it educational – he reads the captions.
The foregoing is adapted from Book Love: Help Your Child Grow From Reluctant to Enthusiastic Reader by Melissa Taylor, M.A.
A mother of a reluctant reader and an award-winning educator, Melissa Taylor needed all her education and experience (a Master's Degree in Global Education, early childhood and elementary education experience) to help her daughter want to read. When she's not maxing out her library card or paying the resulting fines, Melissa writes about education, learning, and children's literature for publications online and in print, including Parenting.com's Class Notes, Imagination Soup, and Scholastic Parent and Child.