by Ann Dolin, M.Ed.
Many parents of reluctant young readers have tried rewarding, cajoling, and sometimes in the end, giving up simply because their child refuses to read for pleasure. So, what’s the trick to get your child to open up a book? The first thing you need to know is that reading comes in all forms, not just in the traditional books that the school has suggested.
Be a Detective
The first step is figuring out what interests your child. Does your son love baseball? Looking at stats on baseball cards and reading the brief descriptions of each player is definitely reading. And so are the articles contained in Sports Illustrated for Kids. Once you get your child hooked, take it one step further by finding related books on the subject. For your baseball-loving boy, consider one of the books in the Matt Christopher series. He’s a great author who writes engaging, easy-to-read books about every sport imaginable.
Delve Into a Series
Even the most reluctant readers will latch on to a series such as Diary of a Wimpy Kid or will engage in the short passages of The Guinness Book of World Records. It’s important not to worry so much about whether or not the book is a classic or even good literature. The point is to get the child reading. And quite often, when a child enjoys a book, he’ll seek out the next book in the series or another title by the same author.
Reread a Favorite Book
Interestingly, comprehension and fluency are boosted when the student reads books slightly below his current reading level. If your child tends to gravitate towards easier books, allow him to do so. Moreover, students improve their reading fluency when they read a passage or book three times. Repeated readings help with automaticity, not just at that time, but down the road as well.
Use the 5 Finger Rule
Some parents often make the mistake of choosing a book for their child that is just above grade level. If you’re not sure if the book is too difficult, use the five finger rule. If your child mispronounces five or more words on one page, the book is too hard. If he misses four words, reading will be a challenge, but can be done. In this case, it’s wise for the parent to read two pages, the child to read one, and so on. Children will find more enjoyment in reading when you use this 2:1 ratio. If only two or three mistakes are made, the book is at the child’s interest level and is a-okay. And when your youngster can read an entire page perfectly, the book is likely a bit too easy, but for some very reluctant readers, that is perfectly fine.
Unplug the Electronics
The last step to getting your child to read is to carve out time each evening for reading. That means turn off the television, put down your Blackberry, and have your child put away his cell phone, Nintendo DS, or whatever draws his attention. Even fifteen or twenty minutes before bedtime is enough time to instill the love of reading.
Relax and Read without Criticizing
During this time, lie down in bed with your child or children, relax, and read aloud. Take turns, laugh together, and enjoy the moment. As much as possible, do not correct your child’s mistakes unless they detract from the meaning of the story. As soon as kids feel pressured or judged, they’re less willing to read. When your child begins to associate reading with evening relaxation and the fun of delving into a page-turning book, he’ll be more likely to read independently and for pleasure later on.
Ann K. Dolin, M.Ed., is the founder and president of Educational Connections, Inc., a tutoring, test prep, and consulting company in Fairfax, VA and Bethesda, MD. In her award-winning book, Homework Made Simple: Tips, Tools and Solutions for Stress-Free Homework, Dolin offers proven solutions to help the six key types of students who struggle with homework. Numerous examples and easy-to-implement, fun tips will help make homework less of a chore for the whole family. Learn more at anndolin.ectutoring.com or ectutoring.com.