As a parent, a writer and book lover, it brings me such great satisfaction seeing my children curled up with their noses buried in books.
For my eight and ten year olds it hasn’t been a smooth path to get here. Reading doesn’t come easily to everyone and it can quickly become a much-hated chore rather than a pleasurable pastime.
The importance of learning to read is indisputable. It’s a skill that will help you get through the most basic tasks in life, such as following a recipe, reading street signs or putting together flat pack furniture.
However, reading beyond what is necessary is integral for your child’s development. Benefits include improved cognitive function, ability to focus and emotional capacity. Then there are all the great things they learn along the way, probably without even realising it.
So how to encourage the reluctant reader? Here are some ways to help encourage your child to become a bookworm:
1. Pick the right books.
Kids these days are so lucky to have an amazing range of books to choose from. Series like Diary of a Wimpy Kid, WeirDo and Dear Dump Diary are humorous and very relatable for primary school kids. They also cleverly incorporate drawings and cartoons into the story so children aren’t faced with page upon page of text – something that can be off putting for the intrepid reader.
One of my sons was struggling with reading but was also frustrated that he wasn’t allowed to progress to borrowing chapter books from the school library like his peers. He found the home readers he was restricted to boring and started to resent having to read them. I let him flick through his brother’s copy of The 13-Storey Treehouse, not expecting him to read much of the story. He loved the pictures and I assumed that was how he was getting the gist of the plot, however the more he perused the book, the more he actually started to read and comprehend. He hasn’t looked back from there.
2. Find their passion.
Even as adults we know it is hard to read something that doesn’t interest us at all. It’s important to remember that reading doesn’t have to be restricted to fiction. If you have a reluctant reader who has a particular passion, find books on that topic. Whether its sea creatures or space or soccer, there are so many books that can pique a child’s interest and draw them into the world of reading. Even TV shows and computer games have related books.
- Minecraft have instructional books and there is also a fictional series based on Minecraft characters.
- For the curious minded, Dr Karl has some interesting, interactive books on science, space and how things work.
- If they love Marvel characters, get them into comics. They count as reading too!
- So many sporting personalities have auto/biographies out these days. Just be sure to check content first as they may contain adult themes or be quite wordy.
- Cricket lovers should check out David Warner’s series The Kaboom Kid.
3. Make it enjoyable & rewarding.
You know your child better than anyone, so you know what motivates and inspires them. Don’t be afraid to try a few different strategies to find what works best.
Here are some ideas to get you started:
- If they are competitive set goals and challenges. Funky bookmarks or new books make great rewards.
- Create a special reading space just for them to enjoy.
- Have library dates where they get to select their latest reads.
- Sometimes kids can just need some help getting into the story. If they still enjoy being read to, take turns reading aloud.
- Research authors of books they like. They might have a great website, YouTube channel or podcast. These add an extra element of interest.
- Talk to them about the books they are reading. Ask what they like/don’t like or what they think will happen next.
4. Lead by example.
As with everything, you are your child’s biggest role model. Show your kids how enjoyable reading can be. Read in front of them, talk to them about the types of books you enjoy and what you used to read as a kids.
5. Be patient.
Don’t push a reluctant reader too hard. As mentioned earlier, it can be easy to make reading a chore for the reluctant reader. Sometimes it might pay to take a step back and revisit some strategies later.