Encouraging the Reluctant Reader

Being a bookworm I was bewildered when I had not one but two children who didn’t seem to love reading.  They loved being read to, and could read well, but choosing a book over running outside, playing with lego or watching TV? Not so much.

Research shows that well-read children have an improved vocabulary and general knowledge, are more world-aware, have more empathy, and are better overall students.  I also think reading is a life tool – you’ll never be lonely or bored with a book in your hand.

So I persevered. I brought lots of books – many second hand – so it didn’t matter too much if they didn’t love them. We visited the local library and I tried not to moan when books were returned half read.  I tried different genres – from horsey to sci-fi and friendship dramas. When they yelled ‘I’m bored’, I yelled back – ‘read a book!’

And then came the breakthrough – one December holiday my eldest daughter, then 10, watched her older cousins sit and devour books like little book vampires. My daughter was intrigued and felt left out – so she started to read.  Snuck in a corner on the couch she finished her first book and quietly began the next, then the next, and then the next… she was hooked.

Then my middle daughter found her way to books by simply picking up a book one day, loving it and reading it in one sitting.  That book was The Worst Witch and I will always be grateful for it! I’m in luck with the third, because he’s always loved books, just like me. We’re not quite a family of bookworms, but I can live with the balance of sports, playing and reading – it’s probably a lot healthier than my childhood obsessive reading under the duvet with a torch and yawning my way through classes the next day!

13 Reading Tips

Gill Haggis, a former teacher and founder of Imaginate where ‘stories are springboards for creative art and craft adventures’, has these essential tips to nudge your children’s reading habits:

  1. Create opportunities by surrounding them with books and reading to them often, from birth.
  2. Make a book corner in your home where they can curl up and read. Look at our Pinterest site for fun ideas to create a book corner.
  3. Lead by example. Let your children see you and your partner reading often.
  4. Encourage them to try lots of different books to find the stories and authors they love.
  5. Create a story language in your family by referring to books and their lessons.  For example, be brave and clever like the mouse in The Gruffalo.  Did you have a  terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day like Alexander?
  6. In the beginning encourage reading of anything and everything – from road signs and DVD captions to the backs of cereal boxes and cook book recipes. Praise them for reading things correctly and help them out when they battle.
  7. Buy books and book vouchers as presents.
  8. Buy audio books for struggling readers and expose them to the magic of stories.
  9. Create a children’s book club with their friends so they can swop and try different books.
  10. Join your local library and make visits a fun treat.  Let them choose two books and you choose one for them to encourage stepping out of their comfort zones.
  11. Turn off the TV, iPad and computer games.  Make a night of ‘no electronics’ a family habit.  Create a space where they can read while you read your own book or newspaper.
  12. Set aside 20 minutes every day for reading and soon it will become a habit. If at first those twenty minutes are you reading to them, that’s fine too.
  13. Relax.  Make reading happy, not a chore and don’t give up on them! They will find the right book that will open up their wonder for books.

Once Upon a Time by Niki Daly (Francis Lincoln Children’s Books)

This is a great book to encourage slow readers – Sarie is a little girl who dreads reading time at school – because she battles to read.  With some help from Ou Missus she practices everyday and manages to overcome her problem.   




Categories: Essay and Parenting.

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