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Help! My Child Doesn’t Like to Read

By Ann Dolin

Many parents of reluctant readers have tried rewarding, cajoling, and sometimes in the end, giving up simply because their child refuses to read for pleasure. So, what’s the trick to get your child to open up a book? The first thing you need to know is that reading comes in all forms, not just in the traditional books that the school has suggested.

Find Your Child’s Passion
The first step is determining what interests your child. Does your son love baseball? Looking at stats on baseball cards and reading the brief descriptions of each player is definitely reading. And so are the articles contained in Sports Illustrated for Kids. Once you get your child hooked, take it one step further by finding related books on the subject. For your baseball-loving boy, consider one of the books in the Matt Christopher series. He’s a great author who writes engaging, easy-to-read books about every sport imaginable.

Select a Series
Even the most reluctant readers will latch on to a series such as Diary of a Wimpy Kid or will engage in the short passages of The Guinness Book of World Records. It’s important not to worry so much about whether or not the book is a classic or even good literature. The point is to get the child reading. And quite often, when a child enjoys a book, he’ll seek out the next book in the series or another title by the same author.

Boost Understanding
Interestingly, comprehension and fluency are boosted when the student reads books slightly below his current reading level. If your child tends to gravitate toward easier books, allow him to do so. Moreover, students improve their reading fluency when they read a passage or book three times. Repeated readings help with automaticity, not just at that time, but down the road as well.

Use the 5 Finger Rule
Some parents often make the mistake of choosing a book for their child that is just above grade level. If you’re not sure if the book is too difficult, use the five finger rule. If your child mispronounces five or more words on one page, the book is too hard. If he misses four words, reading will be a challenge, but can be done. In this case, it’s wise for the parent to read two pages, the child to read one, and so on. Children will find more enjoyment in reading when you use this 2:1 ratio. If only two or three mistakes are made, the book is at the child’s interest level and is a-okay. And when your youngster can read an entire page perfectly, the book is likely a bit too easy, but for some very reluctant readers, that is perfectly fine.

Turn Off Everything with a Screen
The last step to getting your child to read is to carve out time each evening for reading. That means turn off the television, put down your Blackberry, and have your child put away his cell phone, Nintendo DS, or whatever draws his attention. Even fifteen or twenty minutes before bedtime is enough time to instill the love of reading.

Relax and Read without Criticizing
During this time, lie down in bed with your child or children, relax, and read aloud. Take turns, laugh together, and enjoy the moment. As much as possible, do not correct your child’s mistakes unless they detract from the meaning of the story. As soon as kids feel pressured or judged, they’re less willing to read. When your child begins to associate reading with evening relaxation and the fun of delving into a page-turning book, he’ll be more likely to read independently and for pleasure later on.

Ann Dolin received her M.Ed. in Special Education from Boston College. Ann founded Educational Connections Inc. and employs over 160 tutors, serves the metropolitan D.C. area, and has worked with over 5,000 students. Ann sits on the board of CHADD (Children and Adults with Attention Deficit Disorder) and the International Dyslexia Association. Ann is also the author or the newly released book Homework Made Simple—Tips, Tools and Solutions for Stress-Free Homework. For more information, visit www.anndolin.com.

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