As any parent will tell you, worrying about a child who seems reluctant to start reading is perfectly natural, but, conversely, acting as if you are overly worried and concerned is probably the worst thing you can do.
Piling on the pressure and turning the issue of reading into a parent/child pressure point – alongside whether they eat their greens and how much television they watch – can only be counterproductive.
If reading is made to feel like a duty rather than a pleasure, and a source of friction and conflict, then it will never become the relaxing and valuable pastime which you want your child to experience.
There are two main reasons why your child might not be reading as much as you feel they ought to be, or as much as their peers. The first is that perhaps they are not able to. In cases such as this, the problems may be founded on problems such as poor eyesight or dyslexia.
Far more common than this, however, are the cases of children who are perfectly capable of reading but simply can’t be bothered. There are too many distractions – too many computer games to play, too much music to listen to, television to watch or sport to partake in – and for some children the thought of sitting still with a book for any length of times seems inherently tedious.
Whilst most children will pick up the basics, and know enough about reading to be able to carry out tasks such as following written instructions, as a parent you’ll want to introduce them to the genuine joy to be found in reading, and inculcate a love of the written word that will stay with them and be an enriching factor throughout their life.
Not only is reading a pleasurable act in its’ own write, but as a skill it is transferable to a multitude of different areas.
If your child is proving to be a reluctant reader, then there are steps which you can take. Most of them are small, simple strategies which work in a subtle but effective manner. Sitting your child down and lecturing them about the worth and pleasure of reading is never going to work. Doing the following just might:
Lead By Example – It sounds obvious, but, while you’re busy worrying about how much reading your child is doing, take a step back and take a look at your own habits. If you have a house which is full of books and other written material, and your child is used to seeing you reading and clearly enjoying it, then the habit is bound to rub off to some degree.
Read Aloud – Most conscientious parents read aloud to their children when they are very young, but tend to drop the habit as they get older. Maintaining the habit a little longer, however, and encouraging your children to do their bit and read aloud to you, will enhance the status of reading as a social activity, and a fun way to pass the time.
Passions and Interests – Try to provide your children with reading material which chimes with interests they already have. Too often, parents tend to think the ‘proper reading’ means ploughing through the great classics, but, in reality, getting a child to read anything is a major step in the right direction.
Subscribing to a magazine which covers a hobby or topic in which they’re interested is an excellent means of taking a problem – the many things which offer distractions away from reading – and turning it into part of the solution.
Embrace New Technology – Like it or not, many of today’s children regard the printed page as being a frankly outmoded source of information. Almost all of the reading they do is done via an electronic screen, whether that be a computer, a mobile phone, a handheld device or en electronic reader. Take advantage of this by utilising tools such as the Kindle to foster the idea that reading is far from old fashioned and ‘fuddy duddy’.
Choose Books At the Right Level – Often, the biggest challenge lies in choosing just the right book. It’s wise to take advantage of the help which is available in this regard, from experts such as teachers and librarians. What also has to be borne in mind is that the right book for a younger person is one which is challenging enough to maintain their interest, whilst also being technically simple enough to be easily manageable.
One of the trickiest things is to find a book in which the text matches the child’s reading level, whilst the subject matter and the age of the characters matches their own age and interests, which is why ranges like ‘High Interest, Low Reading Age’ are perfect.
It’s also vital that, in choosing a book you feel your child can cope with, you don’t opt for something which is too childish and juvenile. If factors such as the cover, any illustrations and the subject matter appear to have been devised for a much younger age range, then your child will feel patronised.
Not Just Stories – Don’t fall into the trap of thinking that the only reading which is worth doing is based around fiction books. Reading is reading, and if your child finds pleasure in working their way through books of facts, or volumes based upon history, geography or a topic like sport, then that’s going to stand them in good stead in the future.
These are just a few strategies we have come across, but we’d love to know any other ideas you have, or tips you have used that have been successful with your pupils/children!
Please leave us your comments below!
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