Reading is one of my favorite things to do. Life is busy, and I don’t always have time to read for pleasure, but I try to read a little bit before bed every night. I have lots of favorite books and remember reading experiences throughout my life fondly (Remember in 6th grade when Mrs. Collins read us The Witches and dyed her teeth blue?!? I do!).
Despite my affinity for reading and love of books, both of my children have many, many things they would rather do than read. In fact, getting them to read is pretty tough (disclaimer: both of them have language-based learning disabilities that make reading hard), but I have found a couple strategies that work to get them reading, even when they would rather play video games.
1. Let them read what they want – Interest and engagement are keys to reading motivation. I no longer try to control WHAT my kids read, I am just happy if they do it. Graphic novels provide support for reluctant and/or struggling readers because they have pictures which tell the story along with the text. If the book happens to be silly or gross (ahem, Captain Underpants), my boys will enjoy it even more! Many parents and teachers disapprove of books that seem inappropriate in our adult eyes (guilty as charged), but kids LOVE them. Drew’s (8 years old) current favorite: the Dog Man series by Dav Pilkey.
2. Don’t worry about “levels” – As a second grade teacher, I admit to being overly concerned about kids finding the “right fit” book at all times. The teacher in me knows how important it is for kids to read books that are not too easy and not too challenging so they can make the most reading growth; however, the mom in me knows that if kids are INTERESTED they will read. So, while Dog Man is technically too difficult for my younger son right now, he actually WANTS to read it. For a kid who doesn’t like to read, motivation is more important than level.
3. There are many things to read – Don’t forget that there are many kinds of text. Magazine subscriptions are often a great way to get kids reading. Both of my boys get excited when their Lego magazines come in the mail each month, and my older son loves reading Sports Illustrated for Kids. Does your child love Superheroes? Get him/her comic books! Love to cook? I love to read cookbooks. Start with your child’s passions and go from there.
4. Utilize assistive technology – While I do want my children to read print books as much as possible, there are many ways to enjoy books using assistive technology. Audiobooks and websites, such as BookFlix or Learning Ally, allow struggling readers to access text that they cannot decode, but they can understand if they hear it. This provides the opportunity to listen to a harder book than the child can actually read. Nate (10 years old) loves to listen to non-fiction books using BookFlix, which reads the book out loud to him while he follows along.
5. Read to them – Similar to audiobooks or websites, I can read a more challenging book to my children than they can decode independently. Unlike using the computer, though, reading aloud to my children provides us a time to cuddle up, put the technology away, and share something together that we enjoy. Drew, my younger son, and I have been reading the Little Legends series and we’re currently reading the fourth book. He reminds me every night that it’s time to read, and he is disappointed when we have to stop. For a kid who doesn’t like to read, this is HUGE! My older son, Nate, is a harder sell. He doesn’t like to sit still, especially when books are involved! He does not care to read fantasy books with us, but he is obsessed with all things sports. I read Magic Tree House: A Big Day for Baseball (about Jackie Robinson) to him, and he was totally captivated by it. When kids are INTERESTED, they will read (or listen, in this case).
I hope these tips and tricks will help you find something for your reluctant reader to enjoy! Have a tip? Leave it in the comments!