It’s been proven that having the ability to read well contributes to your child’s overall success in school. But what can you do if every time you suggest they pick up a book you hear responses like: “I hate reading.” “Reading is boring.” “I don’t want to read." "Can’t I just play a video game?” Here are some simple tips to hook your reluctant reader in unexpected ways.
1. Look beyond books. You may have to ease off the expectation that your reluctant reader has to read a book. Kids can read all kinds of things to learn new words. This includes: Labels on items in the grocery store; Ingredients in their favorite cereal; Magazines written just for their age group; Rules for how to play games.
2. Let them listen. When kids listen to an audio book or tune in to their favorite songs or go to storytime at the library, they are tied in to a story of some kind, which actively engages them in learning and may pique their interest in reading on their own.
3. Use technology. Have you ever read a book you liked so much you wanted to know more about the author? Kids can be like this too. If you find a book your child likes, see if the author has a website. Many children’s authors include fun facts about their books online or offer discussion guides and insights into how they write.
4. Start them on a series. Get your child started with the first book in a series, then sit back and let them devour the sequels one by one. Series popular with reluctant early readers include Horrid Henry, by Francesca Simon; the Diary of A Wimpy Kid, by Jeff Kinney; and Dork Diaries, by Rachel Rene Russell. Middle readers may appreciate books by Rick Riordan, who wrote his Percy Jackson series to appeal to his dyslexic son.
5. Try nonfiction. Does your child love dogs and horses? Do they want to know more about sharks and snakes? Some kids love learning about facts, and they’ll turn page after page to find out more about animals or machines, or how children in other parts of the world live.
6. Find the right kind of fiction. Just like you may enjoy certain types of books more than others, it’s likely your child does too. Children’s authors write in all kinds of genres that may appeal to your reluctant reader including: Science fiction; Fantasy; Mystery; Historical fiction; Contemporary fiction. Try out different types to find what your child likes.
7. Make them laugh. Funny poems for kids, which are usually short and end with a punch line, are especially good at keeping the pages turning. Often kids are laughing so hard they don’t even think about the fact they are reading. Find a collection by an author like Jack Prelutsky or Kenn Nesbitt and leave it lying in a spot where your child can easily pick it up. Better yet, sit with your child and read a few poems out loud to get the ball rolling.
8. Go short. Thick books can intimidate children who don’t think of themselves as good readers. Hook them by looking for books with less than 200 pages or large type that makes it easy for them to feel they are making progress each time they turn a page.
9. Look for graphics. You may be inclined to dismiss graphic novels, which use pictures and words to tell a story, as less than a ‘real book.’ But with their vivid images, unconventional typefaces and word bubbles, graphic novels are often the ideal books to draw in reluctant readers.
10. Play word games. Include a few word games in your lineup for family game night. Some of these, like Boggle Jr. and Scrabble Jr., are geared to kids as young as five. You can also find good word-game apps by checking with a trusted source such as commonsensemedia.org.
11. Partner with the library. Children’s librarians are great at finding just the right book to put into the hands of all kinds of readers. Another plus? You can go to your local library and come back with a stack of books without paying a penny. If nothing appeals to your child, you can try again with more books the next time you visit.
Cindy writes about books and reading at motherdaughterbookclub.com.
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