I think it takes a while for a child to understand that reading is not something that can be “gifted” to him by teachers and parents. He has to choose to use the tools he is offered and learn by himself, and he might not realize that even after three or four years of schooling. He may still think that reading is a skill that he will absorb by osmosis, somehow, and he may be upset that the magic hasn’t happened yet, the way it has for other, luckier classmates.
You know, of course, that it requires an effort to learn to read, and the teaching method in vogue may not be the best or the easiest way for your child to learn, which is making it even more difficult for him. Your child may have decided, at some point, that reading is not fun at all and is also very hard work. In fact, it is so difficult, he has decided that he can’t and won’t do it.
It is upsetting for a parent to realize that a child is resisting all attempts to help him, and he has stopped trying. He may be hoping that the words will suddenly make sense and his reading problems will disappear or, perhaps, he thinks he doesn’t ever have to read well. He’s managed for eight or nine years to get along in the world by reading no more than a few words, and maybe he can go through life like this. He really hates reading.
What Do You Do Now?
Even though he may have given up trying to read on his own, you mustn’t give up on him. Forget giving in, taking the line of least resistance, giving up the struggle, giving up the fight, or giving in to the sulking. There really are people who drift through life without being able to read more than a few words, and life is a nightmare for them, and we know it.
- Post a Reading Schedule – Set up a time for him to read and remind him gently but firmly – five to seven times a week – that it is time to read, and don’t let him get out of it except under dire circumstances. Even if you can’t sit with him, have him sit near you with his book and read aloud.
- Reward Him – Set up a reward system with prizes for sticking to the reading schedule.
- Find Topics that Interest Him – Offer books about his hobbies, favorite sports, cartoon characters, mystery stories – anything that interests him. And don’t make him finish a book he hates; find another one, an easier one. He needs to experience success.
- Visit Book Stores and Libraries –Take him to the library, browse second-hand bookstores and attend book fairs and events where an author is signing books.
- Describe Reading as Fun – Talk about your own reading as fun, even when you are talking about work-related reading.
- Set an Example – Make sure your child sees you reading. Talk about books and magazines you read, articles in the newspaper – let your child hear the words “I’ve been reading about….” “ I’m reading a story about….” Talk about the books you read when you were young.
- Give Lots of Praise – Let your child know that you appreciate his reading efforts and make him believe that he’s almost there; reading will soon be easier for him, and when he finally masters it, reading will be fun. Really.
Make Sure He Knows Why He Has to Keep Trying
Don’t assume your child understands why reading is so important. Remind him again and again, without hammering him over the head with lectures – work the subject into casual conversations:
- “Yes, I remember writing the test for my driver’s license. I was nervous but I really wanted to drive….”
- “I didn’t have any idea how to fill out job application when I started looking for work but I really wanted to earn some money….”
- “I’m always trying to find information on the Internet. Watch this….”
- “Come here and read this great cartoon – it’s so funny. Read it out loud.”
- “Please help your little (brother, sister, friend) with his reading for a little while.”
Reading is such an important skill that you can’t allow your child to give up and fall by the wayside. Keep working at it.
Have you found a way of helping a reluctant reader that worked really well? Tell us about it.
My sports-mystery for children ages (8-12), Something’s Missing, is for sale in paperback at this link to Amazon.com, or by clicking on this Amazon.ca link, and at Barnes and Noble, and independent bookstores. If your child enjoys reading e-books, you can order the Kindle version available at Amazon.com by clicking here, or at Amazon.ca by clicking on this link.
Creative Commons Attribution: Permission is granted to repost this article in its entirety with credit to Maureen Grenier and a clickable link back to this page.