Help! How Do I Get My Kid to Read?

Summer’s well under way and while it’s time for fun in the sun and sleeping in, parents sometimes worry about “summer slide” when it comes to their reluctant reader.  Fortunately, there are a variety of things a parent can do to make the magic of reading happen.   A few things to keep in mind: 

  1. In most cases, reading progress most often occurs when readers read what interests them and is on their reading level, not below.  

  2. Reading comprehension also increases dramatically when readers do something with the information they read, and it can be as simple as talking about the book.  

  3. For people who don’t enjoy reading it feels like work.  So whatever you do, aim for the fun and lighthearted side.

Whatever you do, aim for the fun and lighthearted side

Consider a Block of Time.

One of the most influential things you can do as a parent is to create a time of the day where everyone in the house reads.  That way, you’re modeling the habit that you want your child to “catch.”  You’ll have to lay a few ground rules.  Decide if you’ll have a moratorium on all things electronic, or if you’ll allow online books.  If you decide that all are reading in the same room, it’ll  be easier to make sure ‘book time’ doesn’t become ‘game time’!

Consider the Library.

The public library offers fantastic (and free!) summer reading programs for all levels of readers and levels of commitment. There are ways to keep track of books, review what you’ve read, and there are opportunities for rewards along the way.  Sign ups can be done online or in person, and the great thing is that if you can’t get to the library, you can download an online book.  Double the impact and join with your child to have a competition.  Be forewarned, though: elementary kids can burn through a lot of books!

Consider Reading Together.  

While it’s almost second nature for grown ups to sit with a young child to read to them, we often let that go by the wayside as kids get older.  However, there’s the thought among folks who study this sort of thing that, despite our modern penchant for silent reading, reading was and still is a social activity.  Thinking of ways to make that happen again can get a non-reader on board.   It could be as simple as reading a newspaper article that your child might find interesting and talking about it. A nightly story from The Message or a children’s Bible is another great way to spur discussion and build faith at the same time.  Ready for more structure? Allow your reader to choose a book that you both read individually, but talk about together.  Up the social quotient and have your child invite a few friends join with you.

Consider Bribery.

Err, I mean, rewards!  I have a friend who paid her children x amount of dollars for each book they completed over the summer.  I can’t remember if she had them write a response of the book or simply talked to them, but  the idea was brilliant!  I can hear some parents thinking, “But pay kids to do something they should inherently enjoy?”  You have to ask yourself, how badly do you want them to read?  You could opt for a non- monetary reward: a trip, experience, or item your child has had their eye on. 

Thoughtfully consider what will work for you and your child as you come up with a summer reading routine.  If something doesn’t work, talk with your reluctant reader and make changes together.  You may one day look over and see your child deeply engrossed in a book of their choice without your prompting.  Keep that vision in mind!

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