Reading is a skill that needs to be practiced regularly. Without practice, young readers will not develop the vocabulary, the skills, and the fluency necessary to become strong readers. But many children, even those with strong reading skills, do not get enough practice and as a result become disinterested in reading, and can quickly become discouraged. Here are some practical tips for encouraging reluctant readers:
- Find books with cartoons or humor — which only a child would find amusing.
Not everything needs to be a learning lesson. Letting children read books such as Captain Underpants or Diary of a Wimpy Kid will keep them engaged and entertained. Although adults might find the language and humor distasteful, children find it very funny and are therefore more motivated to read.
- Zero in on your child’s passions and choose books and magazines focused on areas of interest.
Find books on specific topics to keep your child’s interest, such as science, baseball, American Girl dolls, etc. Children who already have the background knowledge, language and vocabulary before beginning a book will have an easier time getting through the reading. Order a magazine subscription to Sports Illustrated for Kids or Nickelodeon. Children love receiving mail and reading ‘their’ magazines.
- Get your child an email account and, together, check it regularly.
Using the computer to read and write is a huge advantage for most students. By letting young children write and send email, they practice reading, writing and spelling. Teach your child how to use spell check before sending off messages. Be sure to monitor your child’s ‘pen pals’ – who is your child writing to and receiving mail from? Let your child pick out a few family members, including grandparents and maybe two or three friends. You will find that by using email regularly, your child becomes very strong in typing (keyboarding) and using the computer.
- Find an author that your child likes and stick with it.
If your child loves reading Hank Zipzer by Henry Winkler or Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing by Judy Blume, then you have found a writing style which stimulates your child’s interest. Go through the entire series. Don’t worry if the reading is below grade level: your child is reading for pleasure and for practice. Also remember, just because you loved a certain author or series when you were a kid, this doesn’t mean your child will love the same books you did. Browse the bookstore or library and find the newest, most modern series. Usually these books contain language and themes to motivate the most reluctant reader. Kids need to relate to what they are reading, and modern language usage helps.
- Let your child talk to you about the book they are reading.
When we adults read books we enjoy, we like to talk about them. After reading a book, we don’t necessarily want to write a summary, book report or make a project of it. We just want to discuss it with someone else. Look interested in what your child is reading (yes, even if it is Captain Underpants) and ask questions and have your child tell you about it. Laugh with your child about the funny parts (even at the bathroom jokes) and help your child feel good about reading.
Karina Richland, M.A., E.T. is the Managing Director of Pride Learning Centers, located in Los Angeles and Orange County. A former teacher for Los Angeles Unified School District, Ms. Richland is a reading and learning disability specialist. Ms. Richland speaks frequently to parents, teachers, and professionals on learning differences, and writes for several journals and publications. You can reach her by email at: firstname.lastname@example.org or visit the Pride Learning Center website at: