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(Updated in August 2020.)
As a special education teacher and reading tutor, I often have parents ask me for ideas about how to get kids to read more. If you have a child who is learning to read, or one who already knows how to read but prefers not to, here are a few strategies to get kids interested in reading.
The Old-Fashioned Read Aloud
If you have a school-age child who doesn’t like to spend time reading, the first step is to share the wonder of reading without any of the pressure. In other words, show your reluctant reader how wonderful books are without expecting them to do the actual reading.
If you haven’t already started a daily read-aloud habit in your family, now is the time to do so. If you had a bedtime reading routine in the past but have slacked off recently, it’s time to re-establish the tradition.
Choose GREAT Books
Even if you have been reading aloud, if you want to convince your child that reading is worthwhile, you’re going to have to up your game. You can’t grab just any picture book or chapter book that you happen to have around the house. Consider your child’s age, interests, and attention span, and start browsing through lists of recommended books.
Refresh your home library with a few books that you think will truly appeal to your child. Even for an older child, take a look at a few picture books. Many of them have complex, intriguing story-lines and beautiful illustrations that can pique your child’s interest. And remember, you are doing the reading. Your child gets to snuggle up next to you and just enjoy the experience.
Isn’t the Idea to Get My CHILD Reading?
“That’s great,” you say. “I’m fine with livening up our read aloud time, but I want to know how to get kids interested in reading by themselves.” Once you’ve picked a few new books that are likely to be well-received, and established some cozy read aloud rituals in your family’s routine, you can move on to helping your child enjoy reading more independently
The #1 Reason Your Child May Avoid Reading
Why do some kids seem to dislike reading? If you have a child who knows how to read but chooses not to, it is likely because of a lack of fluency in decoding, or “sounding out” the words. Kids who avoid independent reading often do so because it takes such hard work that it just isn’t any fun at all.
The solution is simple and straightforward: “easy reading makes reading easy.” Let your child read lots and lots of books that are easy for them to decode, and then do whatever it takes to encourage repeated reading. Choose books that are one level below your child’s reading ability and stay with high-interest topics. Also, find some old favorites from when your child was younger.
Some children are so relieved to have the “sounding out” pressure reduced, that they are entirely willing to read these easier books, because now it is fun, right? That’s great! Let them read these easy books again and again and again. You are aiming for what New Zealand reading specialist Marie Clay calls “massive amounts of familiar re-reading.”
Some kids are less willing – they may be discouraged or think that it is pointless to read a book more than once. For these kids, consider providing an incentive. I’ve had great success offering a sticker for each time a book is read. For tough cases, offer a small amount of screen time in exchange for each book that is read.
These strategies, implemented in a low-key, positive manner, can go a long way towards turning your child into a more avid reader.
Note – Make sure that your child’s phonological awareness and age-appropriate knowledge of phonics are in place. If either of these two elements is missing, consider hiring a tutor or providing some extra help on your own at home.
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