Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Advice: What can you do when kids do not want to read?

                                  It's usually asked quietly by a very anxious parent.

   "My child does not want to read.  What can I do?"

                          This is one of the toughest of questions for teachers to answer. 
Stop Berating Yourself
There are many factors that contribute to reading success.  Remember, children are strong willed and powerful beings who will exert their independence and engage in power struggles over little and big things every day. Sometimes, it is the potty, or bedtime, or food; sometimes it is reading!

Read to Your Child Every Day
Parents who read to their children are providing the best foundation possible.  No matter what else you do, continue to read to your children every day if you have been doing so.  START reading to your child every day if this has not been a practice in your home.  Read books that they could read to themselves as well as books that you both enjoy that are too challenging for independent reading. Read with expression and read with gusto.  It is through your gift of reading aloud that you are building a foundation for language and clarifying an understanding of story structure and content.  You can not possibly read too many books to kids.  While you keep reading every day, begin a plan to promote reading in your home without making it a power struggle. 
Talk To a Professional
Talk to your child's teacher and / or your pediatrician.  Sometimes, an attentional or focusing difficulty can impact independent reading.  They child may "hold it together all day long, but have nothing left in their "tanks" to read independently in the evening.  Sometimes, vision difficulties can be a factor and children's eyes are more tired at the end of the day. 

Find Books Your Child Wants to Read
The best place to find and try out books in at the library.  Get a card.  It is the best bargain of all - it's free.  Ask the librarian for suggestions.  Try out books of many different genre.  There was a time when my daughter read nothing but scary Stephen King books while my son read nothing but Matt Christopher books about characters engaged in sports.  I really didn't like either of their book choices but they were reading.  It does not have to be the classics or books parents like.  Kids need to try out books to find what they like. Captain Underpants, vampires, graphic novels and yes, comic books are all reading material and all worthy.   
Talk About Books
During dinner, in the car, on the way to get groceries, talk about books.  Talk about the characters and their problems or what they have learned.  Relate characters and their situations to your own life.  Talk about the content of informational texts and about  things you want to learn more about whenever it seems to fit into a conversation.  Get out a cookbook and have your child find a recipe and then help you cook!  One little caution: your conversation must be real because kids see right through a parent who is just trying to get them to read! 
Model Reading
Even if you have never been a reader before, start to model living as a reader.  Read the newspaper or magazines and take books out of the library.  Kids know the difference between talk and practice.  Your example is far more powerful than your words. 
Partner Reading
Take turns reading aloud with your child. You read a page or even a paragraph and then the child reads one.  This is never a "cop out" and always a way to make reading enjoyable for both of you.  I promise, at some point, your child will NOT want you to read with them!
Offer Incentives
Offer reading AFTER bedtime or in exchange for more TV.  This is not so much of a bribe as it is a statement about what YOU value most! Once upon a time in my house, someone earned a "buggy board" for some amount of reading and writing!  Even now, I have been know to share my Barnes and Nobel gift cards with my kids - because they ask for them! 

Tablets and Computers
There are a wealth of books available on Kindles and Nooks and it's still reading.  Try it.  Your child might just like it.  It is undeniably the future of reading.  Who knows, you might like it!  I do even though I am NOT admitting publically to ALL of the books I read this summer!   


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