A reader- I’ve always been one, and I’m sure I always will be. I’ve always envisioned that my love of reading would carry on to my boys. I’ve read to my kids since the day they were born. I read around my kids. I talk about books. I take my kids to the library. And yet somehow, despite doing all of the things I knew I should do to raise a reader, I have a son who doesn’t like to read. And while that breaks my heart, I’m determined to love him for who he is, and I’m learning to live with the fact he doesn’t like to read. The problem is, reading is a non-negotiable at school, and more importantly, in life!
So, how do you get a kid to read who flat out doesn’t like to? Here are thirteen ways to get your reluctant reader reading.
- Read with him. I know, your reader may be a girl, but this seems to be more of an issue with the boys. Either way, I have boys, and I still read to the youngest who is 10. Not every night, but once a week, we satisfy his daily reading requirement with him listening to me read. And while he may not be the one doing the decoding, he still has to follow the story and listen in order to comprehend it. An unanticipated bonus is that he’ll ask questions about a word he doesn’t understand, something I know he doesn’t do when he’s reading silently.
- Read next to him. Next to reading to children, modeling reading is one of the most effective ways to raise a reader. So, many nights I snuggle up next to him in his bed, and I read my book while he reads his. Twenty minutes of reading gets accomplished as does some quality time and some snuggling.
- Take turns reading pages. When my reader is reluctant to read, we’ll take turns reading pages. He reads one, I read the next. His turn, my turn, his turn, my turn, his turn, my turn, over and over until we hit that magic 20 minute mark. Sure, he’s constantly negotiating to read the pages with fewer words, but he’s reading!
- Read outside. My son loves to be outside (as does his Momma). So, when the weather allows, we’ll head outside to read, sometimes in the hammock, sometimes at the fire pit. Taking it outside seems to make it seem like less of a chore, and we can get a bit of vitamin D while we’re at it!
- Break it up in smaller chunks. Who says it all has to happen at once? If it’s easier to read two different times for 10 minutes each, then go for it! Last I checked 10 + 10 still equals the magic 20!
- Bribery. Admittedly, I have been known to bribe this child from time to time. (Come on, you have too….) This summer I was paying my son $5 for each book he read. Was I instilling a love of reading at that point? Probably not, but frankly, that wasn’t the goal, the goal was to get him to read. And it worked. Not being made of money, we eventually moved to a new plan, now he has to get his reading done before he gets the PS4 controller.
- Buy books. Rarely will I read a book more than once, so I’m a HUGE fan of the library. But, it’s not always easy to get there, and often times they don’t have the books my kiddo wants to read. So…we buy books. Sometimes from the Scholastic Book order forms, sometimes from Costco, sometimes from Thriftbooks.com, it doesn’t really matter where it’s from, there’s something about a new book that motivates him to read. Yes, it’s expensive, but worth it.
- Let them read what they like. Even if you hate it. Diary of a Wimpy Kid, Dog Man, I’m so sorry, but I hate you. But he loves you and he reads you. I’ll admit, this one is a struggle for me. But I’m learning to let it go. He gets to read you because the ultimate goal (reading) is being accomplished, even if it’s accompanied by pictures and naughty behavior.
- Read the book…then see the movie. There are so many great books that are eventually made into movies. My favorite recently – Wonder. We had already read the book when the movie rolled around, but he was so excited to see the movie he wanted to read it again in preparation! Charlotte’s Web, James and the Giant Peach, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, The Boy in the Striped Pajamas…so many amazing stories later brought to life on film. I love this because the goal of reading gets accomplished and the post-movie conversation is always lively and fascinating!
- Let them use your Kindle. I love a good old fashioned book, one I can hold, flip through, fold down the pages, you know a good old-fashioned book. But, I recently bought a Kindle Paperwhite. I hate to admit it, but it is convenient. But better than convenient, my little guy will occasionally ask to borrow it…DONE! The best part? The only thing he can do on it? READ!
- Talk about books in their presence. I talk about books with my family, I talk about books at work, I talk about books with my spouse (who by the way, isn’t much of a reader.) While my son may or may not be around for all of these conversations, he’s heard plenty of them. I also talk about books with my friends, many of whom are his friends’ moms. The conversation naturally takes a turn to what our kids are reading and there’s amazing power in peer pressure.
- Let him stay up late to read. As he gets older, bed time has gotten later, but still not as late as he’d like. So, he’s allowed to stay up late, as long as he’s in his bed and he’s reading. Most of the time he falls asleep while reading, but no matter, he’s bound to get a page or two in first.
- Give him a challenge. How I wish I could take credit for this one, but I can’t. This year his literacy teacher issued the first ever 40 Book Challenge. The goal?To read 40 books during the school year. Ha, not a chance. Or so I thought. Turns out my reluctant reader has read more books than anyone in his class!!
And a bonus idea for you…don’t worry so much. Sometimes that 20 minutes of reading just doesn’t happen. So what? Sure, it would be better if it was accomplished. But really, is it the end of the world? Of course not. Sometimes a little less worry and a little more empathy goes a long way.
What typically happens in our house? I’d love to say I’ve mastered all of the ideas and my son reads every single night without a fuss. Sadly, that’s not reality. But I’m happy to say, the 20 minutes of reading gets accomplished more often than not. And that, I can live with!