In my last column, I focused on ways parents can help their toddlers develop a love of books, and therefore help set them up for literacy success in school.
Let’s move on to a more challenging group of youngsters – the school-aged reluctant readers.
These children have started school, and are finding that learning to read is difficult. And because it’s difficult, they do not want to practice at home with you.
Let me suggest two important steps you can take if you find yourself parent to a young reluctant reader.
First, get yourself to your local public library to find books that will grab and hold your child’s interest. Second, figure out how to regularly make time to read with your child in a relaxed and fun way.
Most of us will not choose to read something that is not engaging (unless of course you’re lucky enough to get paid for it) and children are no different. Forcing them to learn to read with dull material is like asking them to mentally eat cardboard. Y
our best bet to combat reading reluctance is to put a bit of time into finding books about their interests, or about topics they’d find amusing.
Though you will find that library books for young readers are conveniently organized into reading levels, I would suggest not worrying about finding the perfect level for your child because you will read these books with them, and you can read all the words/sentences/paragraphs they’re not ready for, while prompting them to read only the words/sentences they are ready for.
It’s far more important here that they like the book and come to enjoy the reading experience.
Maybe at first, this means that your child only reads the sound effects, or that you are reading almost everything, but if they’re enjoying the book, you’re on the right track.
The goal here is simple: you will lure them in by making reading with you fun, and then slowly shift more of the actual reading onto their shoulders. Keep it light and fun, show that you enjoy reading too, give them praise even for their small victories, and don’t push them too quickly or beyond attention spans.
Show them that you also use reading strategies to deal with big words and to understand the plot. Model pointing to words as you read them, and sounding out or breaking down longer words into chunks. Talk out loud about how you are coming to understand the plot by noticing clues in images, interpreting details in text, and making inferences about non-literal ideas. Your child will be taking it all in, and will eventually come to rely on the same strategies independently.
One of the best parts of my day is cuddling together on the couch and discovering the all-age appropriate humor of Mo Willem’s Gerald and Piggy or the subtle environmental stewardship messaging in the Flying Beaver Brothers comics series.
You won’t regret adding this quality time with your child to your daily routine, and you’ll be setting them up for more success in school too.
Rebecca Heuser is an assistant community librarian at the Summerland branch of Okanagan Regional Library.
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