Reaching Reluctant Readers

A good book can be the gateway to a new and exciting world. Get lost in a tale and you might find yourself adrift on the ocean, stumbling through an enchanted forest, attending a school for wizards or at the heart of a love story.

As wonderful as books are to some of us, the idea of reading can be intimidating and boring for some children. For every reason to love reading, there are probably just as many reasons to loathe it. Lots of parents want their children to develop a real love of reading and books, and research has shown that children who read simply for pleasure perform better in other, unrelated subjects. So, how can you encourage a reluctant reader to start loving and engaging with the written word?

The first thing to do is to talk with your child and find out why they’re not enjoying reading – is it boring? Do they not enjoy the books they’re given at school? Are they struggling to actually read? If this is the case, it is worth chatting to their teacher about strategies to help.

After having a chat, address your own approaches to reading and lead by example. If your child sees you reading, they’re more likely to read too. Maybe set up a little book group with your family where you put aside some time for everybody to put down their phones, games and TV remotes and all pick up some books. Technology is not necessarily a bad thing of course and reading on a Kindle, iPad or phone is just as valid as reading a book. Embrace technology!

It’s important to remember that reading is not just constrained to fiction or books, there’s a whole world of text out there. Comic books, graphic novels and magazines are a good way to encourage children to read – just because there are pictures, doesn’t mean there’s not plenty to read. Find a subject your child is interested in and relate their reading to that. That could be reading the match reports and league tables together, working through a recipe and then making a cake or a meal, reeling off gags from a joke book or researching dinosaurs from a reference book – whatever they might find interesting! Relating reading to a subject that they love can really pay off because it gives reading a purpose. Most importantly, make reading fun and if needs be, funny! If reading is just connected to school and academic achievement, then it can put some children off.

Reading together is a good idea too. Most of us will have first experienced reading when having a bedtime story read to us. Once your child is able to read on their own, keep up reading together at bedtime, it’s a good way to keep an eye on your child’s development, but it’s also a great bonding experience. You can talk about the themes of whatever they’re reading, add your own narratives and play with new ideas. Of course, you don’t have to always read to, or with your child, so maybe buy them a head torch because reading under the covers late at night can add an extra bit of excitement. Reading slightly edgy or “banned” books can also provide a bit of a frisson to the experience of reading. Be sensible obviously, but sometimes dealing with tricky subjects in books is a good way of tackling real life problems and concerns. There’s always the gross route to explore too. You might not like Fungus The Bogeyman (for example) but a lot of kids love anything a bit disgusting.

Don’t forget the power of collecting and movies. There are a number of series out there such as Harry Potter, Wimpy Kid, Famous Five, or even Fighting Fantasy. Familiarity with characters and the need to find out what happens is a great motivator. In the case of Fighting Fantasy style books, reading suddenly becomes a game, which can engage children as much as the story. If there’s a new must-see film that’s out at the moment there will most likely be a book tie-in. Read the book and watch the movie…there will most likely be differences and you can discuss those and talk about what you liked about both versions. For the example – the book of 80s classic The Goonies had a version of the Monkey’s Paw tale in it that wasn’t in the movie. It’s a real edge of the seat moment and an introduction to a different kind of story – the campfire ghost tale!

Finally, a lot of people think that the TV gets in the way of reading, but don’t forget that many programmes have subtitles these days. Turn down the sound and switch on the subtitles, it’s a good way to encourage the most reluctant of readers without creating a book vs TV dynamic.

There’s no one fix for the reluctant reader, but making reading and language fun is a good start on the journey to a love of reading!

Comic books, graphic novels and magazines are a good way to encourage children to read – just because there are pictures, doesn’t mean there’s not plenty to read.

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