It’s taken a while, but I’ve finally had to admit that I live with a reluctant reader. The signs have always been there and have included fiddling with Nerf guns during reading homework, taking excessively long pauses during reading homework, opting to watch Stampy videos instead of bedtime stories, and choosing to dress as a Clone Trooper from Star Wars for World Book Day.
It’s his teachers I feel most sorry for. Many a parent evening discussion has revolved around eager teachers desperately attempting to find out his interests in order to engage him with books. It’s not for lack of trying on their part or mine that Toby doesn’t really want to read. He just doesn’t.
He’s perfectly capable and is considered a strong reader, and this is part of the problem. He is given more challenging material and he doesn’t really see the point in putting work into something he doesn’t want to do. Especially when he can watch a YouTube video at a fraction of the effort or get any answer to any question from Google.
He is a product of a digital childhood, yet many of his peers devour books with great enthusiasm, choosing to entertain themselves by reading. Toby just doesn’t feel the same way and that is fine up to a point.
Reading is not just a hobby but an essential life skill, and for children, developing literacy is a pathway to future learning and overall development. I also know that Toby loves a good story – he just prefers it when someone else is doing the reading. I do see the occasional flash of book enthusiasm, so he’s not an entirely lost cause.
It’s become clear that my role in developing his literacy and enthusiasm for the written word has a lot to do with building his confidence and selecting the right material. So here are some of the tips I will stand by to try to encourage more positive reading habits.
- Incorporate reading into the bedtime routine
Most parents read their younger children a bedtime story but this habit can drop off as children get older. It has a little bit in our house. Even if your child doesn’t want to read themselves, they may not yet be too old to be read to, so suggest it. It might help them fall back in love with stories, especially if they’ve begun to associate books with school work.
- Don’t get hung up on what they read
I can be a terrible literary snob but if your child prefers to read the Star Wars annual rather than the complete Harry Potter series, let it go. At least they’re reading.
- Talk to your child’s teacher
If reading homework can be a struggle, talk to your child’s teacher. They might have some ideas about how to engage them in it or think about giving them more appropriate books, and they may support their reading more in class.
- Select books based on your children’s interests
If you’re dealing with a Minecraft addict then shove some Minecraft books under their nose. It’s simple and it’s obvious but reading can be a way to indulge our own interests, and it’s no different for children.
- Seek out film or stage adaptations of classic books
You’ve probably noticed but children don’t generally enjoy sitting still and the problem with reading is that it requires being sedentary. So take a trip out the home to the cinema, the theatre or a museum to see a piece of children’s literature in action, and if their interest has been captivated, introduce the companion book.
- Visit your local library
Libraries are no longer oppressive places where noise is frowned upon, and are generally very welcoming towards children. They even have toys and reading cubby holes. Set your children loose in a library and they may enjoy the independence that comes with choosing their own books and taking them home with them. Plus, it’s all free!
- Praise and encourage
If reading has become a bit of a battleground it’s tempting to want to give up and to let those frustrations with your child seep out, so resist and don’t forget to praise their great efforts because a little bit of confidence goes a long way!
- Lead by example
Do your children see you reading books or scrolling through a smartphone?