The number one reason that children don’t like reading is because they find it very difficult. If you are struggling to decode every third or fourth word, you not only lose the whole sense of the story, but it also makes the reading process extremely laborious, tiring and therefore not enjoyable.
Reading is a critical life skill and is integral to many aspects of living in a modern society. Even with the influx of technology, reading is still a vital skill. If a child is struggling to read, it is imperative to intervene at the earliest signs of trouble. The research overwhelmingly shows a direct correlation between early intervention and future success in this skill. Children are never going to learn to read or love reading if they are not first taught how to read.
Like any skill, explicit direct instruction in the various components of the reading process (phonological awareness, phonic knowledge, orthographic knowledge, comprehension) is very necessary, but not sufficient. You also need sustained practice at applying the skills. For this reason, it is important to also help children develop a love of books, so that when they master the skill of reading, they will be more likely to pick up a book and practise reading.
However, this is often easier said than done!
Five tips to try:
- Set aside a regular time for reading. Including reading as a non-negotiable part of my children’s bedtime routine worked best for me. We did it in bed so that the act of reading was also associated with quality parent time. This regular reading should involve you and your child, whereby your child reads a page out loud to you, your child reads silently and then you read a large amount of text to your child. For more information on this technique go to: Five Steps for Encouraging Reluctant Readers
- Talk to a librarian, especially one who is familiar with children’s literature and ask for recommendations. Don’t restrict your child to books that can be read independently. If the book is too difficult, you can read it to your child. It is actually good to include books outside your child’s current reading level as it exposes them to vocabulary that might not otherwise be encountered. Some local libraries also host a range of events in which you could enrol your child.
- Try different genres. Although the research shows that there are neural advantages to reading fiction, initially choose books that fit with your child’s interest. If they like sport, find a biography on a favourite or popular player. Perhaps your child’s passion is cooking. Find a selection of cookbooks in the library and read and make the recipes together. If you child enjoys arts and crafts, find books that provide instructions for making items that are of interest.
- Try a different format. Borrow audio books of novels that are popular in your child’s age group. Look for some graphic novels or novels with different sizes and types of fonts. Try comics or magazines.
- Provide books as a reward. Going to the local bookshop to select your own book to read can be very motivating for some children. Remember, don’t expect the child to read the book independently. I often read the first chapter of books to my children to get them ‘hooked’ into the story.
The goal is to get your child enthusiastic about books and reading. Once you have achieved this goal, then you can extend their reading material and introduce them to new authors and genres.