For Parents

5 Tips for Parents: Strategies to Support Your Reluctant Reader

It is always difficult when a child struggles. It is especially difficult when that struggle is in something as important as literacy. According to the International Literacy Association there are many negative effects of poor literacy skills:

Unfortunately the only way to get better at reading is to read. So what can you do if to help your reluctant reader? Here are some strategies you can use with your child to help them become a better reader.

Tip #1: Find the Right Book

Your child will only read if they like what they are reading. Choice is key but finding something that can engage your child’s interest can be hard. Here are some ways to find something they will want to read:

  • Try a variety of reading genres: nonfiction and fiction
  • Suggest topics that your child is already interested: dragons, magic, Minecraft…
  • Try different formats. Reading is reading either on a screen or on paper. Different formats could include: Comics, graphic novels, manga, ebooks, journals, poetry, newspapers, magazines, short stories, manga websites, audiobooks, video games, apps with text, close captioned videos…
  • Find a series of books so that there are multiple books they can read
  • Find books that are similar to books they already like. Google: “if you liked ____ (book or series title), you’ll like…” to find similar titles
  • Help them choose a book that they will be able to finish. Access this free poster that outlines how to pick a “Just Right Book” that they are more likely to finish.

Tip # 2: Read During Your Everyday Activities

Try not to make it into a battle, be open to different ways people read. Keep in mind that watching a Gotcha video with speech bubbles or reading posts in a video game are reading activities. Words are everywhere if you are looking for them, include reading in your everyday activities:

  • Bake and have them read the recipe
  • Put the captions on for all your videos so you and your children will automatically end up reading them (youtube, streaming services, cable)
  • Have them read the manual for their new gadget instead of doing it for them and explaining
  • Have them read the grocery list or the directions while you drive
  • Have them read you their field trip letter or email from the teacher
  • If they play video games encourage them to play ones that require reading or writing commentary or read a guide/walk through with instructions/hacks
  • Have them read to you or listen to a book together while doing chores

Tip # 3: Create a Reading Positive Home

Even if your child can’t read yet or shows no interest in reading, making reading a priority in your home will have a positive impact on their views on reading as they grow up. Here are some ways that you can develop a positive reading culture in your home:

  • Have books all around
  • Be “seen” reading
  • Read/listen to audio-books together as a family
  • Encourage reading during the wait times (grocery line, doctors visit, car rides…)
  • Read to them, have them read to you, read with them: co-read (both of you read the words at the same time)
  • Make it a habit. Have set times when everyone reads: after dinner, at bedtime… where the TV and internet are off and everyone is reading together or at the same time
  • Always carry reading material with you: book apps or physical books
  • Make it into a game (google: reading games to do at home):
    • Have them look at the pictures in a magazine and tell you the story
    • Do round robin story telling (I start with once upon and add a detail and then everyone has a turn adding more information…)
  • Keep lists of “Must read books…” that you will read next
  • Create a family book club: read books at the same time, or take turns reading the same book, and  then talk about it
  • Talk about books: compare the books you have read to their movie counterpart or watch the movie and then read the book
  • Talk about the parts of the story (review with this free resource): the characters, events (plot), conflicts, setting and lessons that we learn from what we read (questions you can discuss)
  • Create a reading nook: a book case, a comfy chair or cushions or blanket fort, include twinkly lights or mood music
  • Spend time in places with books and make it a regular, but special thing to do: library, bookstore/coffee shop, used bookstore (read there, browse there, buy there)
  • Treat yourself when reading: snacks, drinks, music…
  • Focus on your child’s interests: use the internet to explore and read about topics the child is interested in
  • Get a magazine or book box subscription that is addressed to the child
  • Create or join a book club with other parents and children
  • Start a book exchange.  Have your child exchanged lightly used books with friends or family or join/start a book chain letter (drop off in mailbox or at door rather than mail) or change the chain letter so that it is book recommendations rather than the books themselves..

Tip #4: Celebrate Reading Successes

An important way to motivate your child to read more is to celebrate their reading successes. Here are some ways to celebrate:

  • Keep a record of the books you have read:  wall of fame with the picture, author, title, date finished, star rating and a few thoughts
  • Do a micro book review (see above for ideas to include) and share  with friends and family or the world  (create an Instagram account or Twitter feed or blog)
  • Take a picture  with the child and the book and send it to family members who will celebrate their successes
  • Show you value reading by creating a reward system where the reward is being allowed to buy a new  book (can be when a book is finished or for completing the chores this week/month)
  • Have your child do something creative with the story: write about it, create a skit, create a play dough or electronic (Gotcha, bitmoji, clip art) scene, activities where they think about what the character is like, have them do a book talk or book ad that they then share with others (family, friends or onine).

Tip #5: Find Alternative Ways to Read Mandatory Material

Decide whether the purpose of the reading is to improve decoding (the sounding out of the words and sentences), to understand content (read and understand the social science information) or to to use the content to develop a skill (write a reflection on the short story). If it is not intended to improve their reading ability, consider using an audiobook or assistive technology (text to speech tool) to help them focus on the purpose intended: critical thinking or writing.

A “text to speech” tool used in many schools is the Read & Write chrome extension

Other articles you might find helpful when supporting your child:

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