Unfortunately, the reverse also holds true: children who read very little usually have poor reading skills. Reading is a struggle for them, and they avoid it whenever possible.
Is there anything that you can do to encourage your children to read? First, it's helpful to know your child's reasons for not liking or wanting to read. These reasons can help you decide what will work best in motivating your child to discover or rediscover how much fun reading can be.
- It's boring. Don't despair if your children have this response to reading that is assigned at school. You can expose them to another kind of reading at home, reading that is related to their interests.
- I don't have the time. Kids are busy. School, friends, sports, homework, TV, and chores all compete for their time. Some children need your help in rearranging their schedules to make time for reading.
- It's too hard. For some children, reading is a slow, difficult process. If your child is having a hard time reading, talk with his or her reading teacher. Ask about how you can find interesting books and materials written at a level that matches your child's reading ability.
- It's not important. Often children don't appreciate how reading can be purposeful, or relevant to their lives. Parents can take it upon themselves to find reading materials on subjects that do matter to their kids.
- It's no fun. For some children, especially those who have difficulty reading, books cause anxiety. Even for children with strong reading skills, pressure from schools and home that emphasize reading for performance can make reading seem like a chore. Our advice: take the pressure off reading so that your children can enjoy it.
If you or someone else in your family has had problems reading, there is a greater likelihood that your children will experience these difficulties, too. Speak to a reading teacher if you have reason to suspect a learning problem. Early testing administered at your child's school can identify a learning disability and alert the school to your child's need for special teaching.
- Nagging. Avoid lecturing about the value of reading, and hounding a child who is not reading. Your child will only resent it.
- Bribing. While there's nothing wrong with rewarding your child's reading efforts, you don't want your youngster to expect a prize after finishing every book. Whenever possible, offer another book or magazine (your child's choice) along with words of praise. You can give other meaningful rewards on occasion, but offer them less and less frequently. In time, your child will experience reading as its own reward.
- Judging your child's performance. Separate school performance from reading for pleasure. Helping your child enjoy reading is a worthwhile goal in itself.
- Criticizing your child's choices. Reading almost anything at all is better than reading nothing at all. Although you may feel your child is choosing books that are too easy or that treat subjects too lightly, hide your disappointment. Reading at any level is valuable practice, and successful reading helps build confidence as well as reading skills.
If your differences are simply a matter of personal taste, respect your child's right to his or her own preferences.
- Setting unrealistic goals. Look for small signs of progress rather than dramatic changes in your child's reading habits. Don't expect a reluctant reader to finish a book overnight. Maybe over the next week with your gentle encouragement.
Making a big deal about reading. Don't turn reading into a campaign. Under pressure, children may read only to please their parents rather than themselves, or they may turn around and refuse to read altogether.