Thursday, July 10, 2014

Helping Reluctant Readers

I love books. For as long as I can remember I’ve loved reading and have had a book on my bedside table. I even have a second grade report card in which the librarian admonished my mother not to let me have more than ten books out from the library (I think she thought I didn’t read them all or something.) But luckily, my mother encouraged my reading.

Later in life, English was, of course, my favorite subject in school because it came easily to me. I loved being introduced to the classics and had a teacher that made it all seem like an incredible adventure when we were learning about Shakespeare, Dickens, Austen and others. So when I went to college, I earned my degree in Secondary Education, English teaching, so I could hopefully inspire others as my own teachers had done.

When I became a mother, I tried to instill the love of reading in my children, although part of me couldn’t imagine them doing anything but loving to read. After all, they were my children! It was a proud day when they turned five because they all knew they could get their own library card then. We had so many great moments at the library---during storytime, free time, and family book club time. I loved it.

But then my children got older and began to choose their own activities, and one son’s choices didn’t include reading. I was shocked at first. I mean, how could he not love reading? How could a child of mine not love books? He said it just wasn’t his thing and he would rather be out playing basketball. Of course all the statistics about what reading does for scholastic achievement and even just plain life skills with literacy ran through my mind. I wanted him to be able to be the very best he could be, and I knew that meant I had to encourage his reading habit in a way that wouldn't make him feel forced or backed into a corner.

Here are some of the things that we did that could maybe help you with your reluctant reader:

1. I showed him magazine articles on his favorite basketball players that he might like to read. 

2. I introduced him to the biography section of the library which has many books on sports people that he admires and tells how they achieved "greatness" in their chosen profession.

3. We have a family book club and each time someone in the family finishes a book I take them out for ice cream and we discuss what they did and didn’t like about the book. This little incentive has actually motivated several of my children to stretch and read a few more books than they might have otherwise, including my reluctant reader.

4. My husband reads bedtime stories in the hall so everyone can hear. I know that having their dad read to them has made a difference in how they feel about reading. It’s also helpful that my husband is an avid reader himself and my children have all seen him with a book in his hand since they were small.

5. We have a regular time set aside for reading. It’s sort of fun to all be together with our different books. Of course a poetry book or magazine still counts and sometimes, for my reluctant reader, just having small columns in a magazine to read instead of chapters in a book makes it seem easier to him and not so overwhelming. 

6. Books on CD are available for him to listen to at night right before he goes to sleep. I was actually surprised at how much he liked this one, but thrilled, of course, that he did.

There isn’t one magical thing that will work for every child because each child is different. But there is no doubt in my mind that being a good reader directly relates to success in life. If you don’t think so, perhaps consider these statistics:

70 percent of prisoners in state and federal systems can be classified as illiterate

85 percent of all juvenile offenders rate as functionally or marginally illiterate.

43 percent of those whose literacy skills are lowest live in poverty

Source: National Institute for Literacy 

"Whether children can read well by the end of third grade is a strong predictor of how they are likely to do in the future—in school, at work, and as parents and citizens. The facts are sobering. Children who do not learn to read proficiently by the end of third grade are unlikely ever to read at grade level. These youngsters are at high risk for later school failure and behavioral problems, for dropping out of high school, and for a host of negative life outcomes once they reach adulthood."

Source: American Prospect

Reading is important for every child and a successful life can be built on reading skills. That's a fact. But reading is so many things--pleasure, learning, and inspiration--that I want my children to experience all of that. And hopefully they will catch the vision themselves, and pass it on to their children.

How do you encourage your children to read?

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