How do I get my child to read? He doesn’t even care for books!
You’ve consulted with teachers, you’ve asked around, you’ve even googled the question. Yes, you’ve tried everything suggested…
and STILL, your child is not hooked to the books. What’s going wrong?!
To answer you, I think back to my own childhood. How did I come to love reading? At the end of the day, I come up with the same thing that everyone else has been saying: my parents read to us, made good books available to us and encouraged the reading habit.
Sigh. So you have no real solution, Teacher Sue. Oh, don’t quit on me yet. Maybe I do too have a solution. I took my question one step farther: so if it wasn’t just the doing, might it have been the way they did it?
I mentioned that my parents read to us when we were little. I cannot recall my mother ever forcing me to read a book. In fact, all my memories surrounding my early reading habits are pleasant ones (almost all: except when I read scary stories and scared myself silly! :D). I can remember wanting mummy to read to me, but I cannot remember her ever making it a second reading class. It was always a fun thing we did together in our leisure time; and I was always the focus of her attention, not the book! So here’s one tip: make it all about him! Forget about spelling and word recognition! Forget about asking him to read words to you! They’ve had enough of it at school. Reading time is time to enjoy mummy and daddy.
MAKING IT ALL ABOUT HIM
Sometimes, it’s clearer if I give you specific examples, so here we go! First, keep your focus on him. Is he interested in the story? How does it relate to him? Remember, the goal of reading together is first to enjoy the time together and second to encourage literacy. Keep it straight and you won’t go wrong there! Second, if you give him a reading-related task in the midst of reading, be sure to make him feel like a hero when he gets it right. It’s not time to do exercises! As you probably know only too well, children’s attention spans are very short. If it gets dull, they’ll quit and want to do something else. Third, talk about what interests him (and not what interests you). That’s the #1 way to keep his interest and help him enjoy it.
I know you’re eager for your child to show that he can spell and recognize words, but he’s been doing it all day to teachers already. He might not be so keen! Let it happen spontaneously. Encourage it, but never demand it. When he obliges, make him feel super special. It’s a sure way to let him engage you in his reading endeavours. When he learns that you’re interested in him and not just in what he can do, he’ll be more likely to actively involve you in his learning.
So, examine the way you’ve been conducting your reading time. (I’m presuming that you do take the time to read with your little ones. If you haven’t started, I strongly encourage you to do it. It’s a wonderful practice!) What is the focus of your reading time? Is it the reading, the story or your child? The idea here is to give reading a positive, pleasant connotation. If you can do that, you’ve won half the battle already!
DADDY, IT’S YOUR JOB TOO!
Now, I’ve been mainly speaking to mummies, but let me say a word to the daddies here. My father was the one who energetically went around looking for books for us, brought us to bookstores while mummy did her shopping, read to us every night (especially my brothers: it’s a boy thing, see! :)) and discussed stories with us. Up till today, he sits down and discusses Wordsworth, Longfellow and Stevenson with us once in awhile. When there’s a new book lying on our coffee table, he likes to pick it up and look at the cover while asking, “Tell me, what is this book about?”
So may I encourage you: this is a joint-effort. You can play a part too! Take time to read to them, talk to them, act out the funny parts as you discuss the story. You won’t regret it, I promise!
Get it right, and the interest will grow naturally!
Coming up next: Find out one simple reason behind loving books. How may I help you better? Help me by telling me topics you’d like to read about. I’ll certainly consider writing about them in upcoming newsletters!
Any questions niggling at the back of your mind? Drop me a note and ask them! I can’t promise that I’ll have all the answers; but if I can help, I’ll be happy to do so!