Confession time: My 8 year old didn't like to read. I felt like I had done everything I was supposed to do in order to get him to love reading. And yet I was mortified that, beginning in kindergarten, he didn't want to read. I had been reading to him since he was a baby (more so than his siblings), we have always had tons of books around, I was a stinking literacy teacher for goodness sake, so what happened?
I could spend all day postulating the reasons why he didn't like to read, but instead I'm going to share with you the few things that made him WANT to read, that made him fall back in love with reading again.
1) Not judging his book choices. This was a hard one for me. I wanted him to read all the books that I loved as a kid, books that made me love reading. However, the books I picked out for him from the library were NOT the ones he loved. In fact, it almost seemed like he wouldn't read those ones just out of spite. Instead, he gravitated toward graphic novels and books with improper grammar, and although my inner English major cringed, I allowed him to read them. And you know what? He read ALL of them. Every single one in the series.
2) Taking away technology in the car. We spend quite a lot of time in the car. Between driving to school, going camping nearly every weekend in the summer, and sports/dance practices, we are in the car A LOT. Instead of throwing them iPads, I've been "leaving them at home." Mysteriously, paper books have replaced them! When the kids have nothing to do other than read, they read.... (or fight with each other).
3) Partner reading. When my son started to become an independent reader, I would read one page and he would read the next. Sometimes we'd go paragraph by paragraph. It provided also some much needed one-on-one time for us. But this enabled us to share in the reading "work" while also enabling him to hear a reader fluently read aloud, ask questions while we were reading, laugh and react to the ongoings on the book.
4) Reigniting reading aloud. I have confessed this before, but I am guilty of not reading aloud to my oldest as much as I should've once he learned how to read for himself. What confuses me about this decision is that I knew all the research, I knew how much my middle school students loved being read aloud to, but somehow I still skirted it, still didn't consider it to be part of his "reading time." But between reading aloud to him just prior to bed and putting on audiobooks in the car, his passion for reading has been reignited.
5) Getting dad to model reading. Second confession: my husband is not an avid reader. But he also loves movies and shows, like Game of Thrones. So when I casually bought him the Song of Ice and Fire series for Christmas, he became a voracious reader. (Just like with kids, get them into the right series can turn anyone into a reader!) The beautiful side effect of my husband's new reading venture has been that the boys sit and read together every night. More about the importance of dads, in particular, reading with/to their kids, in a later post.
If you have a reluctant reader in your home, I hope these suggestions will help you in finding out how to help your kid love reading.
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