How to Reach a Reluctant Reader
Arguably, one of the best milestones of childhood is learning to read. It’s quite remarkable (and a bit emotional!) to watch your child blossom into a reader; suddenly an entire world of knowledge and imagination is opened to them. But what is a parent to do when their child just doesn’t like reading?
Reluctance to read primarily affects boys. Statistics show that overall, boys tend to score lower on reading tests, develop reading and writing skills at a slower pace than girls, and make up two-thirds of Special Education students. That is not to say that boys aren’t good at reading! The problem may lie in the types of books kids are assigned in school, the lack of male role models in literature, and what we consider “reading” (magazines are perfectly acceptable!) Another issue is with strong readers, who can get bored easily and have a hard time finding interesting material that is at their reading level, but still has age-appropriate content.
“There’s no such thing as a kid who hates reading. There are kids who love reading, and kids who are reading the wrong books.” -James Patterson
We’ve compiled a few tips for parents of kids-boys and girls-who struggle to find interesting reading material, and a few title suggestions to get them inspired to read!
Using Child Development Theories to Help Guide Your Reader:
Typically around age 3-6, kids become less self -centered and refine their motor skills. Logic isn’t highly developed yet, and kids in this stage might love imaginative stories with fun characters, and plots that deal with independence, choosing right and wrong, and reassurance. Some great read-together and early reader titles for this stage are:
Skippy is a Siamese cat who thinks he is a sword-fighting Chihuahua. He’s always getting into trouble and pushing his Mama’s buttons, but at the end of the day Mama loves her kitty boy more than anything. Hilarious, and as entertaining for parents as it is for kids.
When Sylvester the donkey accidentally falls under a spell and turns into a rock, his parents begin looking frantically for him. A bit emotional, but very reassuring and sweet story of the unconditional love of parents.
Simple stories of Little Bear and his many adventures, from playing in the snow to visiting the moon. Mama Bear is always right there for her cub, whenever he needs her. Simple vocabulary makes the Little Bear books a great choice for beginning independent reading.
Around age 7-11, kids tend to become more logical, and may struggle with abstract concepts. Many kids in this stage prefer highly relatable stories with kids who are like them, and that deal with themes of friendship and achievement. Ideas for independent reading in this stage are:
Gregg Heffley is the little guy in a middle school full of tougher, taller, older guys. Together with his best friend Rowley, he navigates through school and growing up, but not without some funny antics along the way.
Ramona is every little girl’s favorite heroine. Clever, silly, and spunky, she is always finding herself in some kind of a pickle. These books still feel as honest and as fresh as they did 30 years ago.
Nothing is going right for Justin as he starts third grade. Between making new friends, tough homework, and his pesky little sister, Justin learns to step out of his shell. Being a true introvert , kids who are shy and sensitive will instantly relate to Justin Case.
During the tween and teen years, kids are beginning to figure out who they are, and will probably relate to stories dealing with cultural and social identity. By this age, kids might still enjoy very realistic stories about kids like themselves, but they also may enjoy fantasy, sci-fi, and mysteries. Some ideas to get your 11-and-up kiddo reading are popular movie tie-ins, such as:
An intense, interplanetary thriller, young Andrew “Ender” Wiggins is the only one of three siblings to be chosen for the Battle School. He must fight aliens, corrupt leaders, and his own feelings of loneliness and fear.
In a futuristic, dystopian Chicago, turning 16 means deciding once and for all, how to spend the rest of your life. Faced with a tough choice, Beatrice makes a decision that surprises everyone including herself. Part coming-of-age novel, part romance, and part political thriller, fans of the Hunger Games series will love this trilogy as well.
Graphic novels are often recommended by teachers as a “gateway” genre for tweens and teens as well, because there are generally few words, fully illustrated pages, and high-interest plots. Favorites among this age group include:
Young Jacob travels to Wales to uncover the mysteries of his grandfather’s imaginary friends. But were they imaginary, after all? A suspenseful page-turner with stunning illustrations.
A humorous spin on Homer’s Odyssey, illustrated with fun doodles and stick figures. Fans of Percy Jackson will recognize many of the characters from Greek mythology!
There are as many different books out there, as there are children. If you strike out with one title, try try again! Most importantly, model being a reader. Mention reading every at every opportunity. Set down the phone, switch off the TV, and pick up a book. Guide your children toward role models who have positive attitudes about reading, and engage them in discussions about what you or they are reading.
We hope this guide will help you encourage your child to try new books, and develop a love of reading. Don’t forget that even comic books, magazines, and cereal boxes count, and offer lots of praise whenever you catch your child reading! And, for some great ideas on teaching toddlers those important reading readiness skills, check out this recent post from Daily Mom: 5 Effective Beginning Reading Strategies for Toddlers
Source: Dr. Chase Young, PhD, assistant professor of elementary education at Texas A&M-Corpus Christi, www.thebestclass.org
Photo credits: Emily Jones