Friday, April 16

What to Do with a Reluctant Reader

What do I mean by reluctant reader? A reluctant reader is a child who has reached 10 or 12 years old, who can read, but doesn't enjoy reading on their own, a child who almost never picks up a book to read for pleasure. (And yes, Warren, even severe readaholics can produce reluctant readers! Two out of four of mine would have fallen into this category.) Here are a few tips gleaned from our experience:

1. Take advantage of the times your child is held captive. Keep good books for children in the bathroom. Stack a few by their bed and make reading the only activity allowed after bedtime. Unless your child is prone to carsickness, take lots of books on a long car ride. Never, ever actually draw attention to these books, or suggest that they try reading one of them.

2. Notice what sorts of T.V. programs your child likes most. Do they like drama, or are they more drawn to documentaries and science shows? It's my personal opinion that many reluctant readers are "just the facts" sort of people, and they may prefer nonfiction books. Try leaving biographies, nature books, science books, books of math puzzles, books on W.W.II, sports books, joke books, books about foreign countries, or collection-of-facts type books like almanacs scattered about the house. If you can't resist pushing novels, make them factually based novels.

Don't worry that their reading material is too lightweight. Lightweight is good; dumbed down is not. Your purpose at this point is not to make them well-read, but simply to get them to see that books can be fun and interesting, and that reading doesn't have to be a chore.

3. Have quiet time at your home and insist that everyone--dad, too--is included. After the supper dishes are done is a good time. Only quiet activities are allowed--drawing, homework, paying bills, reading, etc. Half an hour is long enough, but you can try a longer time period if you think you can manage it. Chances are that at some point your reluctant reader will run out of other quiet entertaining things to do and will open a book.

4. Keep on reading to your child. Never stop doing this. Ask your child to read out loud to you once in a while. Ask them to read a page or a paragraph from the book you are reading to them. Try reading a bit of a really engaging book to them--like a chapter or two, just enough to get them really interested--and then be too busy to read to them for a few days and see if they will try to finish on their own.

The all-time best novel for reluctant readers is Scott O'Dell's Island of the Blue Dolphins. It's easy to read, and I've never met a kid that didn't like it. Read a chapter or two to them and see if they don't finish it! Other Scott O'Dell books are good, too, but introduce these other books after they've been hooked by Island of the Blue Dolphins.

5. Tidiness may be a virtue, but being too tidy doesn't promote reading. A reluctant reader does not love reading enough to go get out a book that has been put away. Lots of books everywhere is a good thing when it comes to getting kids to read.

6. Buy books at garage sales and thrift stores and used book stores. If you pay new price for a book, it's going to eat at you when it doesn't get read, and that pressure to have the book read is counterproductive when you are dealing with reluctant readers.

If you have more ideas, feel free to add them in the comments.