By: Jessica DeLing, M.Ed.
When I was a kid, I loved to read. The Little House on the Prairie series, the original Babysitters Club books, Choose Your Own Mystery books (remember those?), were favorites I’d read again and again. Today, reading is still one of my most favorite hobbies. So, you can imagine my surprise when my own child didn’t exactly share the same enthusiasm for a good book. Sure, he’d listen to an adult read to him, but the novelty of his library card wore off by the first grade and it was clear that he had virtually no interest in reading as a pastime. That meant one thing; this mom was on a mission, and I was confident that at least a few of my “teacher tricks” would spark some interest. I tried books of different genres. I tried creating a cozy reading space in his room. We had reading sticker charts. We used timers and incentives. You name it, we tried it. Eventually, the “daily reading log” sent home by his teacher, became the “daily reading battle” and something had to give.
As a parent, it can be tough to know when to push, and when to ease up, when it comes to school. I often hear parents share experiences similar to my story and I can relate to the stress of surviving homework time with a reluctant reader. If you’re finding that your child is resistant to reading, consider the following suggestions for taking a more relaxed approach to reading practice at home.
Grace & Flexibility
Many parents feel like it’s “cheating” or that they are enforcing bad habits if daily reading requirements (i.e., reading log) are not being strictly followed. Others may feel that they are doing their child a disservice if they do not take every opportunity to practice reading skills at home. You may especially feel this way if your child has been diagnosed with a reading disorder like dyslexia. Give yourself some grace. Some days will be better than others but remaining flexible is key to reducing the stress brought on by reading.
Offer Choices to Help Build Confidence
While some children simply don’t enjoy reading as a hobby, others dislike reading because it is difficult. Students with reading disorders or ADHD may view reading as a chore. There is a time to practice reading skills and there is a time to promote reading as a relaxing pastime. If you find that your child is reluctant to read after a long day at school, consider making it less stressful by offering choices. The idea is to promote a designated time during the day for your child to positively engage with text. You may want to consider:
- Books online (Tumblebooks are a great resource that can be accessed for free through the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Library website)
- Audiobooks are perfect for children that may be intimidated by the length of the book. Encouraging your child to follow along as they listen will help build their reading vocabulary too!
- Offer books that are just below their instructional reading level. This not only increases confidence with reading, but it is good practice for reading fluency and reading accuracy skills.
- Try partner reading! Read simultaneously or take turns reading with your child.
- Encourage reading different types of text. For example, comic books, magazines, instructions for a game or toy, cookbooks, etc. If the text is too difficult for your child to read, use these resources to point out text features such as a table of contents, titles and headings, captions, subtitles, etc. Children can also be “word detectives” and tally how many times they can find specific sight words, spelling words or spelling patterns.