Fire Up A Reluctant Reader
Tips on how to motivate your child to read this summer
By Christa Melnyk Hines
Studies find that kids with a zest for reading acquire stronger vocabulary and writing skills and a better understanding of human nature and different cultures. Unfortunately by age eight, many children, especially boys, are less likely to read for pleasure as their interests turn to friends, video games and other activities.
Motivate your child to read by appealing to his personality and interests.
Continue reading together even after your child can read independently. Model fluency, a critical reading skill, which enables us to read quickly and accurately with proper expression. Lack of fluency often fuels reading frustrations, which can affect learning as children advance to the upper grades where reading demands increase. Besides, this is just a great way to bond!
Together, explore a story’s themes and difficult situations. Invite your child to critique and discuss how the story applies to the world as she knows it.
Tell a story.
Recall a favorite tale or share a personal experience. Storytelling nurtures early literacy, helps with comprehension and reflects your values. Plus, research finds storytelling increases the overall well-being and happiness of families.
Explore different genres with your child. “Children often say they don’t like to read because they’ve only read things chosen for them by others,” says librarian Helma Hawkins. “Find a subject your child is interested in and then find a selection of books or magazines on that subject and let her choose.”
Make ‘em laugh.
You may not care for Captain Underpants humor or Junie B. Jones’ grammar, but these books often leave kids roaring for more.
“We read Junie B. Jones in the classroom and use the inappropriate things she says as teaching moments: ‘What could she have said?’” says Jill Conard, a first grade teacher. “We talk about bullying behavior and ways to create peace-building.” Unsure if your child is ready for a particular book? Read it first to decide if it’s developmentally appropriate.
Appeal to their social side.
Start a kids book club or see if your library hosts one. “Peers are instrumental in getting kids to read. If their friends are talking about books they like to read, that will motivate kids to read, too,” says Pam Rousselo, a fourth grade teacher.
Fan the flame.
Hook your child onto a series or a specific author. Legions of young fans rally around series like My Weird School, The Magic Tree House, Harry Potter and Little House on the Prairie. Comic books count, too!
Subscribe to magazines.
Kids love to get mail! Children’s magazines cover topics ranging from current events, wildlife and science to sports and fashion.
Motivate through incentives.
Set goals and reward your child’s reading efforts with a special outing or treat.
Tap the web.
School and library websites frequently offer interactive reading programs. Visit author websites and search for online companions to traditionally published books like the Magic Tree House series, which feature interactive, educational games to supplement the stories.
Another resource, www.guysread.com, offers ideas to inspire boys to read.
Knowonder.com includes free, original fiction stories written by professional children’s authors, as well as, non-fiction articles and opportunities for children to submit their own writing and artwork.
Read on the go.
Download audio books to your child’s MP3 player and he can listen while he shoots hoops. Receive daily stories on your phone or iPad through a free app on Knowonder.com.
“In your hand, you have (access to) a huge wealth of stories for when you’re sitting in a waiting room or on car rides on a device that (kids) want to interact with to begin with,” says Kevin Doyle, a staff writer for Knowonder.com.
Share your e-reader.
According to a 2012 study in the International Journal of Applied Science and Technology, upper elementary and middle school children, especially boys, read more books when provided with an e-reader. The e-readers provide privacy (no one needs to know your child’s reading level), they’re light-weight and the book is readily accessible at all times.
Carie Beth Russell, an educator and mom of two, has her daughters rewrite dialogue, plots and settings by covering picture book text with sticky notes.
“Ask (your kids) to draw while you read aloud. Visualizing the story is a skill that must be acquired,” Russell says.
Set aside daily quiet time for family reading. Create a peaceful and cozy reading nook in your home with a comfy chair and blank
“Laugh out loud at literature. Cry. Let your kids see you be moved and transported by text,” Russell says. “Join a book club and let them see that you value books by the way you spend your time. Buy lots and lots of books at locally owned shops and visit the library each week.”
Dads should make it a point to read in front of their children, too. Boys look to male role models when deciding if reading is a masculine activity.
Little ways to sneak in reading
• Going on vacation? Have your child research the location, cost, hours, etc, of amusement parks or other sites she wants to visit.
• When cooking together, ask your child to read the recipe and assemble the ingredients.
• Dictate your grocery list to your child. Have him read it to you as you shop.
• Next time your child asks to go to a movie, have him look up the times, locations and reviews.
• Ask your child to read the directions to a new board game and explain to the family how it works.
Rule out health issues.
Learning disabilities, hearing and eyesight issues aren’t always immediately obvious, but can quickly sour a child’s attitude about reading. “Not only should you listen as your children practice reading, but also watch their eyes. A correctable eye problem can cause difficulties,” says Marlene Bosak, a children’s librarian, whose son struggled with an eye coordination issue for years. Eye coordination problems may not be detected in a normal eye exam. For more information, visit www.visionhelp.com.
Christa Melnyk Hines is a freelance journalist, family communication expert and author. Through her books, articles, blog and newsletter she inspires today’s busy families to grow happier and stronger through healthy communication.