“But Mama, I can’t read”, “Can we just do something OTHER than reading?”, “NOOOOOOOOOO, I don’t want to read!” – if these words can be heard in your home on any given afternoon during homework time, then this post is for you. One of our boys is what I would call a “reluctant reader,” – or rather a kicking and screaming reader. (This article contains affiliate links.)
I know that reading hasn’t quite “clicked” for him. He has yet to crack the code to reading. Once that happens, I am confident that homework struggles will be a thing of the past, as they are with his brother. Until that day, it is my job as his mother to encourage and guide him along, but in such a way that he doesn’t lose the will to learn. I need to find a way to foster his love for reading. I know it can be done, but in the meantime, the daily struggle can be tiring.
I consulted his teacher and several of my friends who are reading tutors. I am sharing their time tested strategies, in hopes of helping you turn your reluctant reader into a bookwork! Let’s do this together!
Help your emerging reader find a book at the right reading level with “the Five Finger Rule”:
Have your child identify a book they find interesting, open it and start reading. For each word that they cannot read, have them raise a finger in the air.
- 1 finger: The book is easy to read.
- 2 fingers: The book is “just right”, the right amount of challenging and familiar.
- 3 fingers: The book is challenging, but you can continue reading.
- 4 fingers: The book is very challenging and should be read with someone.
- 5 fingers: The book is too hard. Either save it for later or have it read to you.
Strategies to get through the daily reading assignments without tears! (Yours or your child’s):
- Set a timer. Being able to watch the minutes tick away was really helpful in our house. He felt in control again and that made a world of difference.
- Break up the time. Instead of reading for a full 20 minutes in one stretch (or whatever eternity you have been asked to read for), try to break it into smaller lots.
- Go for a brisk walk in between books.
- Do a little exercise, a few jumping jacks or “Simon says” to get the blood flowing.
- Offer a quick healthy snack.
- Incentives. You can offer non-tangible “rewards” such as “five minutes later bed time for each book read” or an impromptu trip to the playground once all the reading has been finished. Personally, I try not to offer too many incentives when it comes to things the kids are “expected” to do, such as doing home work or eating healthy. But a special treat once is a while doesn’t hurt.
- Read to a favorite stuffed animal or a pet.
- Mix the media. Let your child read regular books as well as ebooks on child-appropriate electronic device.
- Build a fort and read by flashlight for a change in location and lighting.
- Set up a designated reading nook with a chair big enough for the two of you to cuddle.
- Read in a quiet room without any outside distractions such as siblings, TV, electronics or falling dust. (Reluctant readers are often easily distracted, since they are looking for ways to get out of having to read!)
- Act out the story line as you read it and change your voices for each character.
- Have a family reading contest: compete to see who can log the most reading minutes or the highest number of books read over the course of a month. Your child will see you model good reading habits.
- Start each reading session by reviewing the book’s cover and title. Then do a “picture walk” throughout the book, discuss what is happening in each picture and then go back to read the text.
- Talk about the book, the characters, where it takes place and what happened in the story after you are done reading. Getting in a habit of doing this helps your child’s comprehension.
- Get books on topics of interest to your child. Our oldest son developed his love for reading, when his 1st grade teacher encouraged him to read more about dinosaurs.
- Take a day off from having your child read – and instead YOU read out loud to him. By pointing to the words as you read, he will still get a lot out of listening to the story.
In the end we have to remember that we are trying to raise a generation of book lovers. Reading is as much a developmental milestone as crawling and walking. Our child’s gross motor skills can’t be rushed, nor can reading. Our “job” is to expose them to books, to model great reading habits and then buckle up and enjoy the ride. Keep it fun, pressure-free and your child will WANT to learn to read.
What was your favorite children’s book growing up?