Learning to read is foundational to every educational experience. A child who develops a love of reading from a young age will be able to tackle whatever subject they want. Yet not all kids dive head first into books. For every three-year-old toddling around quoting Dr. Seuss, there’s no shortage of older kids who clench their teeth every time someone suggests it’s reading time.
The reasons for this reluctance vary. Some little ones struggle with phonics because of Dyslexia or ADHD, while others just need a little more time to be developmentally ready. Others may associate reading with tedious early readers or simply have yet to find the spark that sets their imagination on fire.
If your child is struggling to become an enthusiastic reader, you’ll want to get personalized advice from as many expert adults as possible — ideally who know your child and their situation, whether it’s their classroom teacher, tutors, other family members or caregivers. But these are some common ways we find can help kids get over the typical obstacles to developing a love of reading.
The only way a child will put in the hours necessary to become a strong reader is if they want to read. Follow your child’s interest from an early age, and it won’t be such a strain to convince them to pick up a book.
Thanks to the renaissance in children’s books over the past few decades, there are more choices than ever for getting a child reading — happily. Comic books and graphic novels have become a resource: they engage kids with visuals along with words, provide a point of entry into important subjects kids grapple with, and excite the imagination, all while getting children comfortable with spending time poring over pages.
Think outside the box, and invite your child who loves baking to read cookbooks, or give instruction manuals to your child who loves to build. Help them discover that they can read for pleasure and use it as a tool to get them where they need to go.
In addition to their free choice reading materials, kids should be guided towards books at — or even slightly above — their reading level. Don’t just go by your child’s age: There are several different free testing options available to get a sense of their level, including the lite version of easycbm.com and freckle.com.
If your child isn’t showing interest in reading, it could be because of a mismatch: either struggling to read above their level or not being stimulated by books below their level. Resist the urge to push them straight into Harry Potter if they aren’t ready for chapter books.
But by the same token, don’t worry if an older child still likes picture books that seem too young; just also get them to try out books that push them to learn new words and grow as a reader.
Bedtime stories aren’t just for young children. Older kids can also benefit from a reading bedtime ritual — a great way to bond with your child and wind down the day. For kids who are really resistant to reading, this could be a perfect time to let them relax and hear a story without any expectation that they read along.
But if they’re up for a little challenge (and aren’t too sleepy), you can use bedtime reading as an opportunity to get them to read aloud to you, maybe by alternating pages or having them read the first sentence of every chapter. As they read to you, keep corrections to a minimum, so you both can focus on the pleasure of the story, and make sure to celebrate their effort when they’re done.
Again, don’t forget to let them pick the book every night!
Sometimes all a reluctant reader needs is a schedule. Set the expectation that they read books at a certain time of day, every day, even if it’s initially for a very short period. Like any habit, reading habits can be built slowly. Consistency is key!
It might also help if they use you as a reading role model: If you’ve been meaning to make more time for reading yourself, try creating family reading time when everyone gathers in the same room, reads a book of their choice and then shares what they’ve read.
Incorporate a regular outing to the local library to make the ritual more dynamic: get them a library card, have them check out their own new books, and you’ll be more likely to get their buy in.
With all the influx of technology into our daily routine, it can be easy to create oppositions between reading and screens. But technology has a role to play in building readers; like it or not, our children are digital natives, and they’ll learn to read in a different way than we did. Technology can be a force for good in helping them love reading, for example:
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