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Sneaky Tips for Reluctant Readers

Dr. Patricia Nan Anderson

Development & Learning

If your child doesn’t read very much and maybe struggles to read, it’s important that you support your child’s reading at home. But, as you’ve probably found out, just nagging your kid to read doesn’t do much good. It might even make things worse.

Here are some ways you can sneak in more reading at home without making it seem like a chore for your child – or for you. Get as many of these ideas going as you can.

  1. Be a reader yourself. Reading isn’t a “school skill” but sometimes adults act like it is. If you and your child’s other parent think you’re “not a reader” then now is the time to change that. Kids do what they see their parents do. If you want your child to read, let your child see you reading.
  2. Go to the library with a mission. Get a library card and go with a goal to find a book about whatever your child is interested in. Boys tend to like non-fiction and there’s no reason why library books have to be novels. Find books about NASCAR, football, Big Foot or whatever else fascinates your son. Find biographies of famous people your child admires. And remember that girls like non-fiction too.
  3. Read aloud to your kid, even if she seems “too old.” There are amazing books for older kids that adults will enjoy too. Help your child fall in love with books and she’s on her way to falling in love with reading. Read to your child without asking her to do any reading herself or trying to teach her or quiz her. Make this a stress-free daily pleasure.
  4. Ask your kid to read to a younger child. Learning to read smoothly requires a child to read below his instructional level. But when a child is already reading at a low level, reading even lower-level books can be really embarrassing. By reading to preschool kids (or by taping audio books for preschoolers), struggling readers can practice without feeling dumb.
  5. Get your kid writing. Writing is reading, so get your child involved in writing her own comic strip, TV script, puppet show or radio play. Help her write letters to her favorite celebrities, make a birthday wish list, or write how-to instructions for something she’s good at. Get your child a blank journal and encourage her to write in it every day (you might keep a journal too, just to get things going.)
  6. Link your child up with audio books. This is another way to help your child enjoy books and see the point of learning to read well. Audio books don’t take the place of reading aloud together but give your child a way to independently enjoy books on his age level that might be above his reading level. If you like, let your child have an mp3 player and load it with audio books.

Your local librarian is ready to help you and your child find great books to read together, get you started with audio books, and locate books on the topic your child wants to know more about.  The more you and your child go to the library the easier it will be to think of books you’d like to read.

Make reading what the people in your family do. But remember that there are many different ways to read and many different sorts of books. Help your child see the possibilities and see himself as a real reader.

© 2012, Patricia Nan Anderson.  All rights reserved. 

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Dr. Patricia Nan Anderson

Dr. Patricia Anderson is a nationally acclaimed educational psychologist and the author of “Parenting: A Field Guide.” Dr. Anderson is on the Early Childhood faculty at Walden University and she is a Contributing Editor for Advantage4Parents.