Monday, May 3, 2010

Encouraging children to read

"What do you do if your child doesn't like to read?" is the Blog Cruise question this week.

And I'm a little stumped.  I guess I need to change the question a bit and answer... "what do you do if your child struggles with reading?" as that is the issue I have experienced.

My children all LIKE to read.  They WANT to read.  They just don't all happen to all be terribly good at it.

And that is a struggle for me.  I have read everything in sight for as long as I can remember.  Books are friends.  As you can see from my "what I'm currently reading" sidebar, I usually have 5-6 going at any one time.  

So having children who struggle with reading is a real challenge.  And I'm not sure I have a lot of great advice.  But here are a couple things:
  1. Read great stuff aloud.  Don't read twaddle aloud, at least not often.  While they eat is a great time if you have reluctant listeners.  Captive audience.
  2. Use audiobooks to listen to great stuff.  When you are driving and they are a captive audience is a great time.  Both of these help kids to hopefully appreciate what does make a great story.
  3. Make sure they see you reading.  And reading lots of different stuff.
  4. Let them read books that are below their reading level.  If reading is too challenging, it isn't fun.  If they need to read a challenging book, read it aloud or find it on audio. Don't frustrate them more than necessary.
  5. Let them read some twaddle.  If you are throwing enough read-alouds of great stuff at them (live or via audio), as their reading level goes up, they are likely to be more willing to choose good stuff.
  6. Magazines.  Magazine articles often have excellent vocabulary.  And they are short, usually with some photos, and much less intimidating than a book.  Interesting too, if you pick carefully.
  7. Don't overlook things like Calvin and Hobbes.  Excellent vocabulary, funny, not intimidating.  
  8. Pick a book you know they will love and read the first chapter or two or three... until they are hooked.  Then, leave it lying around and be too busy to read aloud right now... maybe it will be enough for them to pick it up to try to finish it.
  9. Or read the first book in a series you know they'll love, and leave #2 lying around.
  10. Hire them to read aloud to younger siblings.  Or get a neighbor to hire them to read to her kids.  That lets them read "babyish" books in an acceptable way.  
  11. Bribe 'em.  The summer reading programs, Pizza Hut Book-It programs, or whatever... I know some people believe that you need to have your kids read for the sake of reading, not read to get a silly prize.  But some kids need that added incentive.
  12. Bribe 'em.  Tell them they can't watch the movie until they read the book.  And if it is a movie coming out soon, tell them you'll take them (and a friend?) to the movie if they have finished the book by opening weekend.  The same can work for renting the DVD (certainly less expensive than GOING), or getting it from the library.
  13. If they struggle with reading, don't let that hold them back in other areas.  Get science and history on audio, find a math program that isn't reading-intensive.  
  14. And most of all, don't let all the parents out there with perfect children who learned to read at three and read War and Peace at six get you down.  They have their own struggles.  If you allow your children to read Captain Underpants, don't let anyone else make you feel like a bad parent.  You need to make the decisions for your family, and don't listen to the naysayers.

The TOS Crew Blog is sponsoring a question of the week every Tuesday. Watch for what my Crew Mates have to say about kids who don't like reading tomorrow!


Lori Watson said...

Love your answers! We use many of the ideas as well. I made my first three children read The Lord of the Rings series before they could see the movies. My fourth struggled too much with reading and these were too difficult for him, so I gave in and let him see the movies. But it's a great idea anyway! And they quickly learn that the books are usually better than the movies.

Marie said...

Very good ideas! I already use many of them (great minds ;-)), but there are a few I need to try #14!!! Oh how I wish I could stop comparing!! I'm really comparing myself and my ablity to teach my kids. Homeschooling can be so scary for me at times! I always enjoy reading your posts!

Annie Kate said...

I love your reminder that it's important to be allowed to read easy books. That is so true, and I think that that one idea can make all the difference in whether or not a child learns to love reading.

It is so important not to compare; I've endured sympathetic glances from moms whose kids read at age 4 or 5, but my kids caught up easily once they started. :)

Annie Kate

Laura O in AK said...

I've done most of the things you've listed as well. One suggestion a children's librarian had when I was working with my reluctant reader was to have them read the book WHILE listening to the audio of it. I'm doing that with history for my 9 year old to retain it better as well.

BTW, a little twaddle makes life more fun ;o) Captain Underpants made an appearance here as did Magic Tree House, but neither stayed interesting for long. Not when they found other series that truly engaged them.