Although our LitWorld staff is full of voracious readers, this characterization is not one that all of us would have claimed as children. One of the reasons we believe so passionately in every child's ability to become a lifelong reader, is because we've experienced reading transformations ourselves. While feeling reluctance to read is frustrating for a child, and for parents and teachers, the good news is that it's not permanent. One important thing to remember is that it matters just as much (if not more) to talk to a child about "why" we read rather than focusing only on the mechanics of "how" to read. Here are five shifts to make in your home reading environment to reach out to your reluctant reader.
1. Be a listener, a coach and a mentor.
Sometimes, despite our best intentions, the reading "strategies" we test and try to make reading fun for children fail because we forget to start by asking a child for his own ideas. To reach a child as a reader we must first understand what is getting in the way. Is it that he is embarrassed to be seen reading a book that is "babyish" compared to friends who are reading at a more advanced level? Make it clear that every reader is different and praise and affirm his reading choices. Consider using an e-reader or decorating funky book covers, and carve out lots of independent reading time at home.
Perhaps your child isn't connecting with the content of what he is reading but feels stopping midway through would get him in trouble. Whatever the reason, make it clear to your child that you are on their team, that reading is meant to bring him joy and adventure. Have an honest conversation to get to the root of the issue and then work together to think of fun ways to fight back against their reading road blocks. We guarantee that your child will come up with amazing, creative, reasonable and fast-acting ideas.
2. Make reading social.
A feeling of isolation is a common reason that children push back when asked to read. So often reading is identified as a solitary activity that keeps them from being in the company of family and friends. Make a nook in your house that is close to the main action, but designated for reading. You can also form a reading group of friends that convenes weekly and gives children the chance to talk about books, share reading-related experiences, and ideas and opinions about what they are reading. Not only is the act of talking about reading critically important, you will also be facilitating peer-to-peer mentorship. Your child will be inspired and curious to read kid-recommended books and all will find common ground as readers.
3. Read aloud. Read aloud. Read aloud.
Reading aloud is so valuable and so powerful. It truly is the key to cementing a lifelong love of story and storytelling. Read aloud daily and never stop, even when your children are older. You don't always have to be the reader, of course. Have your child read aloud to you, have an audio book read aloud to the whole family during longer road trips. Reading aloud is a gift that you can give your child. A gift that allows him to read above his level and encounter new words. Studies have shown that reading aloud to kids every day will put them a year ahead of kids who are not read aloud to daily, regardless of socioeconomic circumstances. What a powerful, powerful gift.
4. Seek out the stories of strong readers.
Being a reader makes your child part of a huge, worldwide literacy club. A club full of diverse members who your child may not even think about as a reader. LeBron James reads in the locker room before a big game. Astronauts orbiting the Earth pack books in their "space" luggage. Crossing guards, firefighters, grandpas, and so many more all belong to the global literacy club. Have your child interview family members and community members about reading. What are there favorite books to read? When do they like to read? What do they NOT like to read? What is their favorite reading memory? Come up with a list of questions that covers all of your child's curiosities and then start interviewing! Everyone loves to know that their story is valued and that someone is interested in their life stories and experiences, so it will be a wonderful treat for the interviewee too!
5. Find unconventional things to read.
Reading is so much more than traditional novels and picture books. We read newspapers, blogs, cookbooks, even the narration of video games. Often our own reading lives are somewhat hidden from our children because it happens in our heads. Call attention to all of the different ways you read throughout the day. Find kid friendly news sites online, kid blogs and even emails from family members.