How can I get my child to read?
This is probably the most frequent question an English teacher gets asked. Actually, it is usually ‘How can I get my son to read?’ That’s because it is usually, though not exclusively, a ‘boy problem’.
So, what can you do?
The golden question. There are lots of things that can help and what works for one child, needless to say, may not work with another. But here are seven ways that will help on the road to transforming your child from reluctant reader to a rampant reader.
1. Read yourself. If your child sees that you read they are more likely to read themselves. Having books in the home is one of the most important ways to impress upon them of the importance and enjoyment, books can bring. ‘Do as I do not just what I say!’
2. Make it competitive. Many children, particularly boys, like competition. Many schools these days have competitions based around reading. This can be ‘Reading Millionaire’ schemes (1,000,000 words read) http://www.renlearn.co.uk/talking-point/word-millionaires/, the ’16 before you’re 16’ (16 classic books before you’re 16) or the ‘100 word’ challenge (reading written work of 100 words by another student) https://100wc.net/ Find out about schemes at your child’s school and encourage them to get involved. Or make up your own at home.
3. Escapism. Books allow all of us to escape the ‘here and now’. Telling children to read will often not yield great results. Make it sound like a pleasure. Try pitching it as ‘why don’t you escape in a book for 20 minutes’? This can change the way a child views reading. Books should be promoted as a way to experience different worlds, have adventures or are simply fun!
4. Read to your child! This is so important! Children love to be read to. And regularly. Start early and their love of stories is firmly implanted. Equally, older children also love this. Putting on voices is also a great way to show the fun side of reading.
5. Tell stories. Telling stories, be it made up ones or anecdotes, are popular with both children and teenagers alike. As a teacher I’ve seen some children that have never been read to or even told stories. As a result, they are very weak at using their imagination. When they do, they start to enjoy it. Having to think and create images in their mind is a new skill, but one that helps promote reading and later, writing
6. Storyboards. Many children, particularly poor readers, enjoy being able to tell a story but without writing. Either drawing or using cut up pictures is a great way to help them to do this. They could always cut and paste pictures on a computer and then write a single sentence to go with it. These simple stories are a great building block towards developing their reading and writing skills.
7. No rules. Don’t dictate what your child reads! Yes, you’d love them to devour the classics but that can come later. Or not at all. If they spiral off into science-fiction, graphic novels or celebrity autobiographies, run with it. Reading regularly is the goal. Tastes change, reading regularly, once hooked, lasts.
There are also great websites out there with book recommendations for reluctant readers: