The Reluctant Reader: 4 Steps to Encouraging Interest in Reading

Parents and educators have all heard it before… A child isn’t happy about what he is being instructed to do, or is struggling with a specific skill or concept, and he comes back with, “Who cares? It’s not like I’ll ever have to do this once I get out of school!”

Sometimes it can be tough to think of on-the-spot examples of how and when a child will need that particular skill. But, fortunately, coming up with examples of when and why someone needs to be able to read is easier. Study after study has shown that it’s tough to prosper without the ability read. It’s one of those life-long skills.

For example, most teens and adults will need to read in order to complete job applications, school forms, or even basic cooking recipes. But there are plenty more examples where they not only need to be able to read, they need to be able to understand (or comprehend) what is being read. Completing a driving test, following safety instructions at home or work, or even managing unplanned detours or road hazards that may come up when driving, are all examples.

An ability to read and comprehend what’s being read, like most anything else, can improve with practice. But how do you get a child to practice when she just doesn’t seem interested in reading?

Below are four tips for encouraging interest in reading:

1. Start by reading with your child. Let him choose something funny, or weird, or unusual. Point out the illustrations. Discuss what might happen next (let him tell you!). The goal here is to get him interested in the process of storytelling. This also means that you might have to read and reread the same stories over and over. (And don’t be surprised if he catches you trying to skip a page!)

2. Find a nook or space that is comfortable, and that minimizes distractions. Letting kids get caught up in a book is a lot of fun – but it can be hard for them to shut out the distractions of the rest of the world. Sometimes, taking your child to a bookstore or library is the perfect way to expose her to variety of options, while encouraging a focus on reading. (It’s also a great way to find out the types of books that draw her eye, which can help you recommend other books in the future.)

3. Model the importance of reading! Kids are always watching. Sometimes, using a child’s reading time is a great way to get caught up on a chore, or enter grades in a gradebook, or pay bills. But if you would like to help your child become a more self-directed reader, letting him see you read is a great way to show that you, too, find it valuable. (And remember, what you read isn’t as important as the fact that you’re reading – the newspaper counts too!)

4. Find out if your child understands what she’s reading. Assessing comprehension is a great way to measure whether she’s reading books that are at the right level or being challenged appropriately. Reading content that is too far above her reading level can be a deterrent, but reading content that is not at all challenging can be boring. The trick is to do this in a casual, non-threatening way.

Show interest in the story itself, and the characters. What does she think that means? What might the main character do next? What would she have done the same or differently if she were in that character’s shoes? Conversations like this are a great way to get her to think critically and use a variety of complex skills at the same time. (And what a fabulous opportunity to learn about your child’s interests, and build a stronger relationship with her!)

Reading isn’t always a child’s favorite subject, and that’s okay. Remember that reluctant readers may be struggling readers, who might just need some additional support to get them started.  Download this FREE activity for a simple, fun way to reinforce reading. Suggested questions or discussion points to help assess comprehension and interest in a non-threatening way are included.

Happy reading!

Nov 12th 2018 Erin Green, Director of Boys Town Press

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