12 March 2015

How to help your child enjoy reading Part 6

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There are different stages to learning any new skill.
  • At first it is impossible.
  • Then it is hard.
  • Eventually it becomes easy.
  • Then it becomes more enjoyable.
Of course, some skills are enjoyed all the way through, even when they are hard to do. But for some people, reading is only enjoyable after it becomes easy to do - it is only then that they can get swept away in the story, rather than concentrating on the words and sentence structure.

If your child doesn't like reading because it is difficult, the only way around that is through it. (I'm not talking about children with problems like dyslexia, but rather typically-developing and -abled kids.) Only with persistence will it get easier. And only once it is easy can you really get lost in the tale.

It's so worth persisting to that point! It's a phase that's a means to an end, and that they'll never have to go through again, so it's worth just pushing through, no matter how long it takes. And, of course, reading will become easy much more quickly if it's done more often.

This was the problem we had with Noah. He just plain didn't like reading and just plain didn't want to do it. He loved being read to, but didn't want to do it himself. Because I am so passionate about reading, Grant and I insisted that he read every single night, whether he wanted to or not, to get to the stage where it was easy. I would read to him, and then he would continue reading by himself once he was engaged in the story.

He is now a champion reader with a reading age of 12.5 years (he's 9) and absolutely loves it.

In fact, I asked Daniel and Noah independently what advice they would give to someone who didn't enjoy reading. Daniel said, "Read at least one chapter every day. You might find you get into the story and want to keep reading." Noah said, "Just do it every day, even if you hate it. You might grow to love it like I do. Now it's the best thing in the world!"

Schedule it in
We've found that Noah likes to read for up to an hour before he goes to sleep at night, so we have scheduled his bedtime for early enough to allow for that reading time. His bedtime of between 7 and 7:30 might sound quite early considering we only need to be up and about at 7:30 in the morning, but it gives him the time to read and unwind that he likes to have before turning out the light.

Daniel pretty much self-manages his reading time and bedtime, but we do have to limit his screen time as he'd always choose to do that (over pretty much anything else). When he has limited screen time he reaches for his books because he hates to be bored.

Help the process along
Be sensitive to the fact that slogging through the difficult stage can be daunting, and try to help the process along a little. I mentioned one of the ways I helped Noah - by reading to him to get him immersed in the story and motivated to find out what happens next, and then passing the book on to him to carry on reading. But be very careful about rewarding reading. Rewards can actually work against your goal of establishing a good reading habit - click here for more information on why this is so.

If you do want to link rewards to reading, try to choose rewards that reinforce the habit of reading, for example the purchase of a new book, a magazine, a special bookmark, a new audiobook, or maybe watching the movie based on the book once the book has been read.

I hope that you've enjoyed this series, but more than that, I hope that there has been something in it that has been helpful or interesting to you. Hopefully soon your children will all claim that ...

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