Some kids have a natural love of reading. Others, not so much. So how do you instill a love of the written word in reluctant readers? Many children struggle to master reading skills as they learn to read, says Judith E. Larkins, elementary reading specialist at Mesa Public Schools, Arizona’s largest school district. And this makes reading difficult.
“The necessary skills included in phonemic awareness, phonics, fluency, vocabulary and comprehension should be addressed and supported for children to be successful as readers,” offers Larkins.
Success breeds success. And the more successful a child is with reading, the more he or she will want to read.
These tips will help you foster a love of reading and motivate your child to pick up the books more often:
Build on your child’s curiosity. Stock up on reading material based on your child’s interests. “Let them dig into books, magazines and multimedia on the topic,” says Larkins. For instance, if your child has a love of Komodo dragons, in addition to looking for books on the topic, have him go on a scavenger hunt for anything about dragons in magazines like “Ranger Rick,” or use the QR code on the label of a stuffed animal purchased after a visit to the zoo to expand upon the child’s knowledge. “With parental support and guidance, the Internet and other digital resources can cultivate interest, provide information and broaden a child’s knowledge,” Larkins adds.
Make it fun. Have a family reading night where everyone shares/reads a book. For kids, perhaps reading earns them a 30 minute delay for bedtime. Or take a trip to the local library, and stop for ice cream afterward, suggests Larkins.
Make reading a family affair. Share in the interest with your child and read together. And don’t limit reading to just books; read magazines, food labels (your child can identify letters) and so on. “Not only will this foster an interest in the written word, but it will also help bond the family,” says child psychologist Isaura Gonzalez, Psy.D., CEO of Hudson Psychological Services in Staten Island, NY.
Create a reading corner. Whether it is a special spot in the den or in Mom and Dad’s room, designate a spot where your child feels special and welcome to curl up with a book – or anything – to read. And leave plenty of reading material in the area so your child doesn’t have to seek out things to read, suggests Kathryn Starke, a literacy specialist and founder of Creative Minds Publications, a global literacy educational company. And don’t be afraid to get creative. Kids like to read in a comfortable, fun place, preferably somewhere they’re not usually allowed, like under a table.
Read two levels below. Practicing reading at the level where a child “should” read can promote frustration and disinterest. Reading two levels below where they are reading promotes self-confidence, independence, increased self-esteem and self-assuredness, says Gonzalez.
Start slow. Sure, it would be great if your child picked up a book and read for the love of reading. But Gonzalez says if they don’t, forcing them to read an hour at a clip when they may be struggling is a sure way to stifle any progress. Instead, encourage little bites of reading. “Depending on how much the child is struggling, you may want to start with 5 to 10 minutes a day every day, and then increase as they begin to show proficiency and self-confidence.”
Go old school. Create “whisper phones” from plastic piping in hardware stores, and read to your child with your lips at one end of the tube and his ear at the other. Teachers swear it endears youngsters to reading time!
Own reading. When a child “owns” a book (be it from a bookstore or garage sale), he’s more engaged with reading than someone who has only borrowed school and library books. One good way to find quality kids’ books is to search current and past lists of Caldecott Medal and Honor Books. These are especially helpful for parents of boys as these tend to carry more illustrated male than female characters.
Start a series. Larkins says book series are a great way to get young readers excited about reading! Depending on the age group, some titles include Spot books, Biscuit, Berenstein Bears books, Henry and Mudge, Junie B. Jones, and Frog and Toad.
How do you get your kids excited about reading? Tell us in the comments below!