Does the statement “I hate reading” sound familiar? Unfortunately, many children feel this way about reading, and our third blog in our back to school series focuses on those reluctant readers.
The link between reading for pleasure and success in school is well documented. Many studies* have shown that those children who read for pleasure are likely to perform better in class, building their confidence, vocabulary, leading to future academic success. It can help motivate and engage children in their lessons and reading for just 15 minutes a day can make a big difference. But how do you get your reluctant reader to do that?
Start by finding books on topics or genres they love. The right book can make all the difference. What do they love? Lego, horses, funny characters, strong male or female leads or comic book characters? Make sure it’s in a format that’s manageable and enjoyable for them. If that means starting out with comic books then so be it. Praise them for reading, regardless of what they read. You can try building on this love of comics and offer books based on a similar, illustrated format that might also appeal to them (Diary of a Wimpy Kid, The 13 Storey Tree House). Discovering a favourite character or an author can help motivate your child to read. You can also get magazines on a variety of topics from the library or borrow them from your child’s school. Find books that matter to your child, that they can connect with and get excited about.
Make reading a fun and enjoyable experience. Let their imagination soar as they discover new characters, new facts, or new places. There are plenty of books that are funny and will allow you to be silly together, to help your child realise that reading can be fun. Maybe they can read with a fun uncle or an older friend, laugh together over funny books. Helping your child think of reading as something that can actually be fun can be a good motivator.
Watch a film together and then read the book. This may seem the wrong way round, however, if you have a child that isn’t engaging with books why not try to engage them in the story and characters before they even pick it up? So many great children’s books have been made into films… Roald Dahl’s Matilda, Fantastic Mr. Fox, Charlie and Chocolate Factory, as well as series such as Harry Potter and Percy Jackson. Perhaps watch the first film then suggest you read the next book together to find out what happens next in the story. For younger children, there are also many children’s books written around their favourite TV and film characters such as Charlie and Lola, Peppa Pig, Franklin and all the Disney characters.
Try a rewards system to motivate your child. For example, if your child reads a certain number of books they get to go out for a milkshake or to their favourite playground. You can record successes using a star chart. Keep it positive and realistic; don’t insist they read all the books in a week, just keep track of those they do read, let know them how proud you are and of course remind them of the treat to come.
Set a quiet time to read as part of their daily routine. Perhaps suggest your child can stay up for an extra 15 minutes as a reward but that this time will be spent reading, whether together with you, with a sibling or on their own. If you don’t want to have a later bedtime for little children try starting your routine 15 minutes earlier to leave time for reading.
Take turns to read. If your child is easily distracted or intimidated by reading the whole chapter or lots of pages at once then it may help to break it up for them by reading a page each. When you do read together make sure you ask questions about the story, make predictions together, discuss what’s going to happen next to certain characters. This helps your child understand the story and develop their comprehension skills, helping them to connect with the story. As their confidence and ability grows move on to reading a few pages or a chapter each.
Show interest in the story yourself. Reading a chapter a night or occasionally stopping at an exciting part can encourage engagement and an enthusiasm to continue reading the following day so they can find out what happens next. Discuss the story between reading sessions. Talk about how excited you are to find out what happens next. Sometimes suggesting that you extend your reading session to read through the exciting part can help make it special for your child.
Introduce opportunities to read throughout the day. Try leaving notes around the house for your child, in their lunch box or at the breakfast table. Suggest they have some fun by reading silly jokes to you from a joke book while you prepare dinner. For younger children try playing games spotting different letters on number plates or reading signs when you’re in the car. Can they find signs beginning with different letters of the alphabet? Play games where reading is required, such as creating a simple scavenger hunt around the house with clues your child needs to read to find the ‘treasure’.
If you’re worried that there is more to your child’s reluctance to read and that they seem to really be struggling then talk to your child’s teacher. This may help you get to the bottom of any issues and mean you can work together to find ways to support your child.
Our next blog in our back to school series will focus on book recommendations for children to help them choose engaging books.
* The Reading Agency summarises findings from many studies dedicated to the link between reading for pleasure and success.
* The National Union of Teachers states that those children who read for pleasure for 15 minutes a day are likely to do significantly better in school than their peers in maths, vocabulary, and spelling.