Most people know the importance of reading in education. In fact, most parents want to encourage their children to read for pleasure. Everybody wants to get their child reading. So what do you do if your child just doesn’t like to read?
I really want my kids to be readers. Before I even had kids, I looked forward to reading books to them and with them. Of course, having good reading skills can help in all other areas of academics. Beyond that, however, I feel that literature truly enriches our lives and helps us understand the world in a more meaningful way. Despite this desire, there were more than a few moments where I thought this goal was not going to happen. For several years they just did not seem to enjoy the books they would read.
It took a little time, but we are on the other side of those fears now. We have a whole family of readers! Here are some of the things I learned as my kids transitioned through those phases of early reading.
“My child can read well, but doesn’t want to read chapter books.”
It can take a lot of brain power and concentration for a child to read in those earlier years. Even if it seems like they are able to read well, kids can be reluctant to tackle longer chapter books because it is just exhausting to have to concentrate so long. If it seems that your child has the reading skills, just not the stamina for longer books, then look for more challenging picture books or short chapter books for a while.
It gives kids a confidence boost to finish a book. Putting down a chapter book in the middle doesn’t give that same satisfaction at first. Reading longer chapter books also means that kids also have to keep track of the story line from day to day, which can require just a little more maturity and isn’t necessarily related to their reading ability. There is a great way that you can help them in this transition time.
Reading aloud together
Reading chapter books aloud to your child helps to develop the maturity it takes to get through those longer books. When you stop at the end of the chapter and then pick it back up the next day, ask your child if he remembers what was happening in the story. Do a quick recap and ask him what he thinks is going to happen in the next chapter. These quick and easy questions help your child engage with the story and develop good reading habits.
Reading aloud to your kids helps them get excited about the new worlds they can visit when they read. We love to talk about Narnia and Hogwarts together. The worlds we have visited in books have inspired many games of imaginative play in our house. We often bring up book characters and situations when we talk about issues we are dealing with in our own lives, such as when we experienced loss in our family. These memories and experiences give our children a little extra motivation to discover some new worlds for themselves by reading more challenging books.
Read Good Books
Let’s just face it, there are books we love and there are books we hate. Help your child find the books she loves! Ask other parents which books their kids like (I’ll tell you my 5-7 graders are really into Wings of Fire, Land of Stories, and Keeper of the Lost Cities), ask a librarian, read reviews on Amazon, GoodReads, and Common Sense Media. And let your kids give up on books that they don’t like. This was hard for me at first, but I think it is good advice. I even gave up on a read-aloud once because I just was not enjoying it. We had been skipping reading time because I just didn’t want to read it anymore. I wish I hadn’t wasted my time.
Other Practical Steps To Get Your Child Reading
Besides inspiring your children by reading aloud and helping them choose appropriate books for their maturity and reading level, there are other practical steps you can take to help your children become readers.
Set a timer
I hated setting a timer and forcing my kids to read for an age-appropriate amount of time. I wanted my children reading, which they did, eventually. But having designated reading time helped them understand the value we placed on reading. Making it a requirement helped them develop that stamina I talked about earlier.
Too much screen time will interfere with not only your child’s motivation to read, but also their ability to focus on reading. I am confident that is a fact and not just an opinion based on research. There should be no screens in bedrooms. This is the suggestion of pediatricians, psychologists, and sleep specialists. In our house, we gave up watching television before bed (well, mostly) in exchange for reading time after two of our kids were having trouble falling asleep. I recently attended a lecture of a local pediatric psychologist. He stated that kids who are seen for sleeping problems will be prescribed no screen time at all for 3-6 hours before bed. Light from screens disrupts the brain’s natural process of falling asleep, so we made the leap to actual paper books only before bed.
Some people seem to think that kids are either natural born book lovers or they aren’t. If your kid doesn’t enjoy reading, then keep trying. It can be a slow process, but don’t give up.
In summary, there are a few different steps you can take to get your child reading — and enjoying it! Easy steps like limiting screen time and setting aside time for them to simply read will improve their skills, while reading aloud with them and fostering an environment where reading is prioritized and valued will help them truly love books.