I know that many of you have wracked your brains trying to figure out what you can do to get your child to read. You've heard all of the benefits of reading and have tried many things to motivate your child to open and complete a book but to no avail.
As much as educators promote independent reading, there is often not much advice given to parents who have tried everything to help their child learn to like reading. In all honesty, we sometimes have to admit that this problem never goes away for some children whom, even as adults, still may never get any enjoyment from reading. With all the technology that people say tends to compete with their child's attention and time nowadays, it may seem bleak to think that a child who already dislikes reading is going to give up their iPad or screen time in exchange for a "boring book".
If I can put on my "Educator Hat" for just a minute, I will tell you that the issue is a pretty simple and clear-cut one: Children Just Have to Read. A child who can read fluently and for different purposes is more likely to experience success in school and in his or her life. So if we don't find a solution for the child who hates reading, it is highly likely that they will not reach their expected levels in literacy or even vocabulary development.
"The more that you read, the more things you will know. The more that you learn, the more places you'll go!" ~ Dr. Seuss
So what can we do about it?
Well there are a few things we can do to help children who dislike reading:
- First, try to determine if your child does not like reading because he or she is struggling with the process. Children who have not yet mastered "decoding" (sounding out), fluency with reading or even reading comprehension will likely not find reading enjoyable until they can master these areas. For children who may have learning disabilities like dyslexia, this can be an ongoing challenge. In this case, it is very helpful to have these children work on improving their reading skills and strategies in a specific programme (like our Literacy Intervention Programme) so that they can gain more mastery over their reading. Then they can better focus on the pleasure of reading.
- You can set aside some time to sit with your child (or children) and read together as a family. This works really well when you choose a book that is within the child's reading ability and you do a "round robin" kind of reading together. For example, you may have your child read one page and you read two pages, etc. In this way, your child will be able to learn to enjoy reading a longer chapter-book or novel with this natural form of support. Many children who hate reading are never able to get through a longer book on their own without giving up, so this is ideal for those kinds of kids. Then in time, you may find that they are able to begin enjoying stories and can graduate to greater independence in reading on their own. In order to get kids started with this, you may like to begin simply by reading the whole book aloud to them at first and then moving to the shared reading. Focus on the storyline and discussing the key events so that they are engaged. Ask them to predict what might happen next or explain why a character is behaving in a particular way. If the book has a movie version, tell them that you will watch the movie together after reading the book. This is likely to increase their motivation and interest levels.
- Getting kids reading at least 10-15 minutes at the bare minimum is essential to keeping them moving forward. As much as we would like children to be reading longer, more in-depth texts, this is not always possible with some. For the parents who have tried it all, having them encourage their child to read newspapers and magazines is also a good option. These kinds of texts tend to be focused on particular areas of interest and can provide a clear beginning and end so that the child can see his or her progression more clearly.
- Also, online reading or e-reading can be a very good option . Try to match the child's interests with related (age-appropriate) online content. It can be through short articles, reviews, news, etc. This strategy has been successful for many children who do not seem to be interested in reading traditional kinds of texts. Afterwards, ask them to tell you what they have read about and monitor their interest levels.
- In severe cases where children may have many more challenges with their reading ability, you can even get them to listen to books. With all of the e-Readers and iPads available these days, you can simply access the text-to-speech option that allows the text to be read out loud. This works best with the Kindle where any kind of text is read out loud. With the iPad, the text-to-speech options have to be highlighted first to work which can be laborious if you want to read an e-book. Even listening to books can boost a child's interest levels and get them to develop an appreciation for stories. This can increase their exposure to a variety of different kinds of text types and still ensure that they are gaining exposure and practise with the kind of vocabulary that is typically only accessed through books and written texts.
At the end of the day, you want to ensure that your child has the ability to read well and that they are developing interest in reading. Don't be afraid to get firm and stick to your guns if all else fails. Remember, you don't want your child to fall behind so sometimes you may have to come down a bit harder than usual to ensure that your child is spending adequate time (ie: 10-15 mins 5 times per week, for example) developing their reading skills. Try not to make it a "punishment" but instead try to "sandwich" reading time between two highly-enjoyable activities so that there is something to look forward to once they're done.
By trying out these options, you will certainly be able to find something that will work for your child and hopefully in time, you may find that they become independent and competent readers.