As winter approaches with its short gray days – if your child loves nothing better than to curl up with a good book, you do not need to read this post. But, if your child would rather hit balls than hit the books or rather Wii than read, then this blog post is for you. Many children are what I call, reluctant readers. Some children like stories (on television or movies) but not if they have to read them. There may be several reasons a child is a reluctant reader. In some cases the child may read too slowly to enjoy a book or story read alone, so they prefer watching it played out. It’s not that this child can’t read, it’s just too difficult to be something the child will do for pleasure. Other children are more action oriented. They like to do things not listen about other people doing things. These children may have been reluctant listeners when they were younger..
Now, for the good news! Research shows that the first step to reading well and enjoying a book is enjoying a good story. We forget that humans have been listening to stories for centuries; reading though, is relatively new. When Columbus discovered America in 1492, only a very few people knew how to read. Until the printing press was invented in 1440, the vast number of humans had no access to printed text. Even In the U.S. reading is relatively new. Children were not required to go to school in all the states until less than a hundred years ago. And even then, children in school were not always taught “to read” the way we think of it today. In many rural classrooms reading centered around memorizing passages from the Bible and reading basic words helpful for buying and selling goods , crops, and livestock. Children were not required to “sound words out” or read to learn
So to get your reluctant reader to become an avid reader – get your child wired for sound by listening to stories as often as possible (and using any means possible).
Toddlers – The Nursery Rhyme Effect -It is worth repeating one of my blog posts from several months ago, that the best way to build a listening and language skills in a toddler is through nursery rhymes. Repeat nursery rhymes routinely during dressing time, bath time, playtime or car rides to the day care center. You don’t have to actually sit down and read them to an active toddler, just add nursery rhymes you remember from your childhood to routine activities you do with your toddler each day.
Pre-schoolers – Establish Story time -Make story time a part of every bedtime routine. You can take turns having dad and mom or even an older brother or sister read a short story before bed every evening. It is a great way to quiet your child down for a nap or bed and provide an opportunity for intimate “quality time” each day.
Primary school years – Read to and with your child each day - What you read together does not matter. So, go to the Library and let your child choose a book or two each week. Or, ask your child’s teacher to recommend books. But make certain you and your child read together for at least 20 – 30 minutes a day.
And for all ages, when you are purchasing gifts for a reluctant reader during this holiday season, consider one or two new audio books before video games. Your child might not thank you at the time but she will in a few years.
The evidence? Andreas Schleicher reported research from 2009 on 15 year olds in 18 industrialized countries around the world that was conducted as part of the International Student Assessment (PISA). The study not only evaluated student performance but also asked parents questions about how they raised their children. A major finding was that adolescents whose parents often read to them during the first year of primary school had significantly higher scores on PISA than students whose parents read to them infrequently.
Only a few generations ago, your reluctant reader might have grown into a very successful athlete, farmer, or merchant without any pressure as a student or adult to read prolifically. But today success in adulthood depends on success in school and that depends on reading proficiency. Rather than forcing a reluctant reader to read, try building a love of listening to stories first.
Tip 49 Research indicates that you can build your child’s love of “story telling” and “story listening” and by doing so you can turn a reluctant reader into an avid reader. But, if you think your child might be more than reluctant, might actually have a reading problem, please get professional help. A little targeted intervention by a language or reading specialist can nip little problems in the bud.