How Do I Get Them to Read?
So many mums and dads say to me they feel under so much pressure about getting their children to read. On the one hand they have teachers and education professionals saying how important reading is, and the other hand they have their child who refuses to pick up a book unless they are forced. I often get asked by people are there some magic books that help reluctant readers. And I have previously written about Hi-Lo Readers. But this time decided to do a bit more digging and share what I found.
There are a number of reasons why children are reluctant to read. They may have a learning issue, which parents will need to work with teachers to help identify, and this article does not deal with these issues as they are best left to the professionals. This blog looks at strategies for helping those reluctant readers become engaged and see reading as more than tracking words on a page, or a chore they have to do. While researching this blog I found that many of the ideas I came across were not new, but some of the activities to get around them were really interesting.
The first thing we all know is that reading is an important skill and, just like learning to play an instrument or learning sports skills, you need to put in the hours of practice to get good at it. So we have put aside time for this important activity, and we have home readers and children slog through them building up their hours of reading. For many children this is enough, but for some children home readers are a chore that often ends in tears, and reading frustration grows and then there is more pressure and more frustration. So here are some ideas that may help make better use of that reading time that I call ‘Beyond the Home Reader.’
1) Get Them Reading Something….. Anything.
All children have an interest – sports, transformers, space. Find out what your child is interested in and build reading around that. That does not mean buying them a chapter book and expecting them to read it, you have to be a little more sneaky. Say your child is into NRL – get them to read the scores from the latest round, or some of the games reports of their favourite team, or even a programme from a game. If you child like food get them to read recipes or the food contents off the box. So you child is only interested in games and gaming? There are plenty of magazines and internet sites that are child friendly you can point your child to. Reading is reading after all. Be imaginative.
2) Fact, Fiction, Graphic Novels and Joke Books
While chapter books and getting lost in a story seem to be a big focus for reading, they are not the be all and end all of reading. Where I grew up he librarian of our local library would not allow comic books in the library, because reading comic books was not reading at all. Thank goodness things have changed!
In today’s world with internet, tv and games things are fast passed and satisfaction is immediate. Reading traditional books often does not give this instant gratification. So we need to look for reading material that does. Graphic novels are great because they are an extension of picture books where the images can immediately let you know what is happening. Encyclopedias and factual books aimed at children have small snippets of facts and browsing through these types of books and reading the snippets clocks up the reading hours. Also a special favourite of mine is use joke books. Kids love jokes, and reading jokes is reading!
3) Reading is not a solo activity
By reading this article and thinking about some of the ways your might encourage your child to read you are already saying reading is not a solo activity. Admittedly when you get lost in a really good book it is a solo adventure. But you can share that adventure by talking about the books you love and why you love them. Children are inspired by what you do, and this may get them interested in reading. Not so interested in reading fiction yourself? But you will read something. Internet news articles, facebook updates, a car manual, emails from friends and family? Just make a point of including them or letting them know what you are reading and that it is reading. Maybe read bits out loud, and encourage your children to read bits out loud to you when they find something interesting.
Make reading a family activity. I don’t mean sit down and read all together, but maybe plan some trips to your local library or bookshop, or even to a newsagents to choose magazines to read. We have a holiday tradition of going to a newsagents and choosing a magazine for the holiday. As magazines are often more expensive than books this is a real treat and we spend ages choosing.
Encourage your family to give books your child is interested in as gifts. If they are reading a series this is a perfect way to help them finish the series. If you don’t know what they will want to read gift vouchers are fun. You can spend time choosing and looking for what inspires your child. Giving the gift of books shows to the child books are as important as toys and that everyone cares enough about books to take the time to give them as gifts.
4) Variety and Access
Children will read what they want to, and sometimes they don’t know what it is they will read. As we all know no two children are alike, and no two children will want to read the same thing. Make a variety of reading materials available, libraries are great for this. Make them available around the house, in the car, in your bag when you go out. When you are stuck somewhere instead of handing out the mobile phone why not have a joke book to amuse your children, or a quiz or activity book?
Try hard not to judge what your child reads. I mean if they are reading about axe murders please be judgemental. But if they are reading a Pokemon Book or a Lego Friends book do not try and get them to read ‘a proper book’. Just be grateful they are reading. If you want them to read something different then give them access to different sorts of books, maybe even read a few yourself to show an interest, But really, let them read what they want to. All those hours of reading what you consider to be rubbish is still hours reading and will work towards making your child a life-long reader.
Let’s face it. We can spend all out time showing children we like reading, making all sorts of reading material available, finding reading material that interests them in a format they will read and still there will be children that will not read. So what are you left with – the good old reward chart.
There is no shame in using a reward chart to record the time your child spends reading and when they reach agreed targets they get a reward. If that is what it takes then that is what it takes.
With these tips you may not make a life-long reader, but you will have someone who is able to read when they need to, and as parents that is sometimes the best we can do!
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