A few weeks ago, I was interviewed on Good Day Chicago Weekend to discuss my newly published picture book, Gorillas’ Night Out, as well as the role and importance of reading in a child’s education. Being a former Kindergarten teacher, I was thrilled to have the opportunity to discuss this topic since teaching my students to read was my favorite part about being a teacher.
One of the questions asked during the interview was, “What can you do to encourage your child to read if he or she is a reluctant reader?” A reluctant reader is simply someone who does not like to read for entertainment purposes and would prefer to do anything but read.
It can be extremely frustrating when you are a parent of a reluctant reader; getting them to read can feel like you are pulling teeth! The battles and tantrums that can ensue are enough to cause a giant headache! And, when they finally do read, it feels like you have accomplished a gigantic feat. But, do not panic because there are things that you can do to rectify this issue. While preparing for the interview, I composed a list of strategies that you can employ to turn your reluctant reader into a not-so-reluctant reader.
1. Model reading for your child. Research shows that one of the most important things a parent can do to encourage their child to read is to model reading for them. When your child sees you laying on the couch, curled up with a good book, this sends a powerful message that reading is a fun and pleasurable activity. If she sees that you genuinely like to read for enjoyment and entertainment purposes, she will be more likely to partake in this activity as well since children take cues from adults.
2. Evaluate what your child is reading. Maybe your child does not enjoy reading simply because the books that he is choosing to read are too difficult and beyond his reading level. When a child is trying to read a book that is above their ability level, it can become incredibly frustrating to struggle and stumble over every word. He will begin to associate reading with negative feelings and will not find it to be a rewarding activity. But, if you help him select books that are at or even just slightly below his reading level, this will help to build his confidence in his reading ability, as well as enable him to feel successful and proud.
3. Find high-quality literature. There are a lot of books out there, but they are not necessarily all good books. It is important to find quality literature that will captivate your child’s imagination and draw her into the book. Providing her with high-quality, engaging literature will help foster an appreciation for reading for the sake of reading. Some notable picture books currently out are The Wall in the Middle of the Bookby Jon Agee, Wordy Birdyby Tammi Sauer and Almaby Juana Martinez-Neal.
4. Find books about your child’s interests. Your child will be more inclined and motivated to read if he is reading about something of interest to him, as well as capture his attention. For example, if he is really into dinosaurs, you will want to find books about dinosaurs.
5. It’s ok if your child is not into “traditional books”. Maybe traditional books don’t excite your child and that’s ok! Luckily, there are many alternatives, such as graphic novels and comic books. There’s also audio books, books on Kindle, ebooks, magazines, newspapers and more. The point is that it does not matter what your child is reading as long as they are reading! The more you read, the better the reader you become!
6. Take trips to libraries and bookstores. Spend time perusing the aisles with your child and explore books of all genres. Notice the books that excite and captivate her attention to determine her reading preferences. Have fun spending an afternoon poring over good books!
As grown-ups, we know the feelings of joy and exhilaration that comes from getting lost in a good book. My favorite time of day is just before I go to bed, when I pick up my book and escape my life of carpools, children and laundry to be transported to what feels like another world. But, it’s hard when our children don’t view reading in the same light that we do. However, if you help your child plant the seed, then continuously water and nurture it, eventually the seed will grow into a tall plant and just like the seed, your once reluctant reader will grow into an avid one.