We all want our children to develop a love of reading. This skill more than any other can propel our children academically whilst giving them hours of pleasure as they become completely absorbed in a story. However, for some children the path to enjoyment is not an easy one as they struggle to find the pleasure in reading. This can become particulalry difficult when they start school and are expected to read a new book each night. The result can be ‘battles’ at home which only reinforces their less than positive associations with reading.
The problem itself may be rooted in anything from a failure to see reading as something which is enjoyable to early signs of difficulties processing, and anything in between. A reluctance to read is more revalent in boys than girls but the strategies outlined here apply equally well for both genders.
There are no quick fixes but I suggest you begin by putting some fundamental behaviours in place first and then you can build on these with practical strategies to move your child’s reading forward positively. The strategies might feel as though you are taking steps backwards but it is critical to build up on solid foundations if you are to reach the ultimate goal of having a child who loves to read. Being patient with the process is key.
Go back to basics
Your goal is to get your child to see the pleasure in reading so go right back to basics; get them sitting on your lap and read them at least one book each day when it isn’t bedtime. Take out one of their favourite story books, read loudly and expressively making the story come alive. It doesn’t matter if you have read the same book one hundred times. What’s important is that your child sees reading as a daily daytime activity which brings pleasure. Bedtime stories are still critical, we are just adding a daytime story to their day.
Bring stories alive
Bring one of their faviourite books alive by taking an elelment of the story and recreating it the real world. So, go on a Bear Hunt in the woods, be the Hungry Caterpillar and eat what you find in the kitchen cupboards and fridge etc. Engaging in the story this way helps children see the connection between the words on the page and their lives, which will only enhance their enjoyment.
Model good behaviour
Children are more likely to do what they see than what they are told, so make sure they always see you reading. Make sure you take time each day to read something, even if it is for 15 minutes. It will be the one of the most valuable 15 minutes you will spend each day.
Liaise with school
If you are to make progress quickly it will be important to get your child’s school on board with your plans. Explain to them that your child is reluctant to read to you at home and you are keen to get them enjoying their reading rather than making it something which you battle over each night. Ask them to work with you by varying the types of books your child is given to read, such as alternating between reading scheme books, story books, factual books and comic books. The aim is for your child to evidence they can read and this can be done by asking them to read selected words and sentences rather than a book in its entirity. The key is whether your child can follow the story, anticipate events with “what do you think will happen next?” statements, and decode new words by blending the letter sounds.
Read some or all of the book with your child
Another good strategy to use with school reading scheme books is to read the whole book to your child first, using lots of expression, and then ask your child to read the book to you. Alternatively, you can read a page and then ask your child to read a page. This makes reading the whole book less daunting and allows the story to flow more for your child, which is much more engaging.
Vary their reading material
Contrary to popular belief reading comics is just as likley to increase a child’s vocabulary as reading War and Peace. Remember the goal is to get your child enjoying the process of reading, so if they enjoy reading comics, encouarge this, whilst also reading longer stories to them too. If your child is particularly interested in Dinosaurs, encourage them to read factual books about them, and point out the odd word or sentence which you ask them to read.
Track the words on a page
Your child’s reluctance to read may be due to difficulties processing the words on the page, or they are struggling to focus on each word at the exclusioin of everything else on the page. Help your child focus and reduce their processing burden by encouraging them to use a bookmark to highlight the currrent line which they are reading. Alternatively, cut a rectangle shaped hole from a coloured actetate sheet just large enough for one word and encourage your child to move the rectangle hole over the current word which they are reading.
It can be hard but remember all children, with their parent’s support, learn to read. For your child to develop a life-long love of reading you have to take a long term view and not get caught up.