I am SO incredibly fortunate that my oldest son not only is obsessed with reading but he tests out at over 4 years above his age level. But I know SO many parents stress out and come to me to tell me what a struggle it is to “make” their child practice reading. Especially at this time of year when schools seem to be centered on tests and the “summer fun” is not too far into the future. I think that’s when things start to turn sour….not the tests (although that’s a whole different discussion and perhaps the reason for some of the stress over it)…. but somewhere in the balance of kids understanding that they just aren’t measuring up to everyone else’s standards and the lack of desire to read frustrations begin to grow. Kids KNOW they may read differently than their peers. They don’t need an adult to continually tell them they aren’t good enough at reading. They don’t need to hear “You HAVE to practice reading because…”. And they certainly don’t need to feel that their self-worth is measured by numbers on a page. They need encouragement. They need inspiration. And they may just need your help thinking outside of the box!
The first thing to work on is simply to promote a LOVE for reading. Once you can plant the seed for at least “liking” reading it will be a little easier to get your child reading on level material. I know that this doesn’t come naturally for all children, so for those kids who just could care less about reading you’ll need to get a little creative. Here are some ideas to get kid’s interested in actually picking up a “book”.
1. Comic books & graphic novels – These can be a huge benefit to kids who get bored with so many words on a page or are strong visual learners as each page in the “book” is heavily illustrated. We make it a special event on occasion to take the kids to a comic book store and let them pick out their own material to read. It stays either in the car to be viewed when they are bored from traveling or next to their bed to read at nights. Amazon is also a good source for a variety of comic books or graphic novels.
2. WEIRD books – Yes, I said weird. Kids (and adults) are always fascinated by strange outlandish reality and series like Weird But True by National Geographic, Ripley’s, and Guiness World Record books are always full of colorful bold photos and absolutely crazy facts.
3. Animal Photo Magazines– Subscriptions to high quality animal magazines with bold capturing photos like Zoobooks, National Geographic, etc. are always of interest to kids….even if you just leave it in the car for times when they are bored. Typically these magazines come once a month or every other month so there is always something new to look at.
4. Scholastic Book Flyers – This was one of my favorite things to do growing up – pick my OWN books out of the Scholastic book flyers that came home every month. From “how to” kits to spooky stories and animal novels they pretty much have something to offer for everyone.
5. Thrift Store Book Spree – This can get a little crazy depending on the size of your thrift store but take your child on a book shopping spree. They may not be excited at first, but if your thrift store has a decent book selection there’s bound to be something that catches their interest. Typically when I take my kids “book spree shopping” I don’t have a limit…or I set the limit pretty high. I let the children choose whatever they want as long as it’s child-appropriate and let them take ownership of their own piles of books. Yard sales of course are another great place to find books.
6. Go electronic or GO WILD! Ok, let me break this one down a little bit. Depending on your child’s age of course some kids just LOVE those electronic recording books no matter how old they are. (Books like Hallmark Interactive Storybooks are fun!). Also for older kids there are a PLETHORA of cool and unique books like the “Ology” books, secret coded message books, journals, etc. Look for something that is more than “just a book”. Something that has stickers, fold out posters, decoded messages or other unique aspects in addition to reading.
7. Go Digital. Using digital books can certainly make many reluctant readers think twice about reading! If you’re not ready to splurge for a Kindle look for cheaper alternatives which you can find for about $40+ on sale. You can usually rent free e-books at the library, get some free on Amazon (or for $1 or less), etc.
8. Never Say No! Ok, there are a lot of “buts” associated with this one, but if at all possible if your child asks for an age appropriate book (and they normally don’t like reading) try not to say no! You don’t want to squelch their desire to read in any way! Of course this can get out of hand with kids asking all the time so obviously you have to use your judgement but try to be pretty liberal and flexible when it comes to books with your kids.
9. Make it a family experience. Of course this option takes the most time and certainly depends on the age level of your child but reading either nightly as a family (taking turns reading of course) or even on family reading trips to the library can really encourage kids to read through enjoying family time. It also takes some of the stress off of the child to sit down and read an entire book by him/herself. Maybe the family can read a book, then watch the movie and compare the differences. Or the family can read a story and choose a project based on the book (planting a garden, going on a train ride, etc.).
10. Declare a hobby. Let your child declare a hobby – any hobby they want to try, then rent or buy a book for them to learn how to do that hobby. If your child wants to build model airplanes, juggle, make balloon animals, a greenhouse…..whatever the hobby is chances are there is a book for it. Not only will your child get creative with their time but they will have to read the book to learn how to do that hobby! This of course detracts from reading a bit but it’s a good idea when you need to “step away” from reading and integrate it more into a creative aspect of life.
The MOST important thing is to BE PATIENT! Be encouraging! Good readers aren’t created overnight and sometimes it takes them until they are adults to find reading more comfortable. Find creative ways around nagging your kids to read. There are a LOT of options out there! Try them all! Make books of all sorts easily accessible whether your children are at home, in their bedroom, in the playroom, in the car, etc. Incorporate reading into your lifestyle instead of just making it a chore or exercise for school. And don’t forget – be patient and keep plugging at it in a creative way!