I started reading to my children even before they were born. Can you imagine? Picture me, reading to my growing belly. Almost every room of our house has books in baskets, stacked in corners, and layered on shelves. The public library is like our home away from home. The people who lug heavy bags of books up to the return window and take forever at checkout? We are those people.
Both of my children love books. Yet, despite being read to almost every day of his life, my oldest hated to read. My son loved books. He just didn't want to read them to himself. He was the definition of a reluctant reader. When I started homeschooling my son in the middle of second grade, my hope was to rekindle his love of learning. After four years at home, he would not only tell you that he likes to read. He would also rattle off a list of his favorite novels. Still, our best intentions don't lead our children in the direction we hope they will go. While my early efforts did give him a love of books, fostering a love of reading took more work. Here are a few things that helped my son fall in love with books. They might help your own reluctant reader.
Interest is the key to internal motivation. Boring books stifle readers. In my son's case, once he started reading the action-packed fantasy or non-fiction books he wanted to read, he was motivated to read. My younger daughter is a new reader. She dislikes early readers and doesn't want to read if she has to read them. Both of my kids often choose books that are above their reading level. Sure, it takes them more time to read these books. However, because they are interested, they're happy to take on the challenge.
The adage "you can't judge a book by its cover" is true. Sometimes we need to read a few pages or a couple of chapters to see if the book is a good fit. When my son hated reading, one of the best ways I found to hook him was to find a book I was pretty sure he would love and read the first couple of pages aloud to him. I would read right up to an exciting part and then put the book down. More often than not, he grabbed the book and spent the afternoon reading.
Teach Reading Strategies
When our children don't understand what they're reading, it’s painful to read. Teaching reading strategies such as how to:
This strategy helps them make sense of what they read. Less time is spent on decoding sentences and more time on getting caught up in the story.
Don't Stop Them
When my son was a resistant reader and I found him reading in bed past his bedtime, I had a choice. I could stop him from doing the very thing I wanted him to enjoy or let him sleep in the next day.
Capitalizing on interests is a huge perk of homeschooling. That's why we suggest zooming ahead in your Instructor's Guides if you and your kids are really enjoying a book or topic of study. Don't squelch the passion by sticking too rigidly to the schedules in your curriculum. Be willing to bend a little, especially in the direction of a reluctant reader's fascination.
I will always feel gratitude towards our local librarian. More than a few times, she has handed my son a book that she was "sure he would love.” Recommendations from people our children like or admire can be very motivating.
Learn How to Find a Just Right Book
Our kids might not know that there are things that people who love to read do to find a good book, one they’ll love. Things like:
- Read excerpts, reviews, and the author's bio.
- Discuss genre and talk about which ones might hold a child's interests.
Once my son understood that many of the books he loved were considered fantasy, he knew there was a section of the library that held the books he enjoyed.
Read Together and Model Reading
Reading out loud, even to older children, is beneficial for a variety of reasons. It models the act of reading, offers a shared experience with opportunities to talk about a book, and can spark a child's interest. Our children often follow our lead. Children are more likely to be readers if their parents are readers. Let your children see you read, talk about the books you love, and make reading sound as wonderful as it is.
Just because a child loves books doesn't mean they like to read. It may take time, the right book, and a good deal of patience, but there are ways we can help our children love books and love to read.
About the Author
Kelly left teaching middle and high school English to homeschool her children and reclaim how she and her family spent their time. Followers of interest-led learning, her family's days rarely look the same, but they tend to include a lot of books, art supplies, and time outside.
Kelly facilitates local writing circles for women and children and blogs about nurturing the love of learning on her blog, Curiosity Encouraged. She loves to journal, read memoirs, hike, and travel. She seeks quiet mornings and good coffee daily.