Guest post by Mia Wenjen, aka. Pragmatic Mom, one of my favorite bloggers!
From Reluctant Reader to Voracious Reader
My oldest child is now starting 6th grade which is Middle School where I live. She’s a voracious reader now but it wasn’t always so. I guess there are many, many reasons why kids don’t like to read and for her, it wasn’t the decoding or sitting still; it was the act of performing. She hates any kind of attention. A root canal is preferable to her over performing and reading out loud was a performance to her.
Unfortunately when children are young, they have to read aloud in order for we, the parents, to see if they are reading with fluency, decoding words correctly, and comprehending what they are reading (as noted by strange pauses, skipped/added words or unfamiliar words). We’re not mind readers after all!
There were other issues too. My daughter preferred books with a plot that were beyond her ability to decode. While many kids love the Bob books, she summarily rejected them so I had to find other phonics books that could hold her interest. This issue is very common her teacher assured me but it makes finding books that she could read confidently and enjoy challenging.
My daughter also found chapter books intimidating well into second grade. She preferred picture books so as her decoding skills improved, I needed to find advanced picture books. We found many great ones using the picture book section of Kathleen Odean’s Great Books for Girls. In fact, I am now a believer that advanced picture books have much better content and vocabulary than many easy chapter book series. And some of these books below also take readers back in time or inside of someone’s skin. Wonderful stuff!
Because she is my oldest, I was fearful of screwing up. She’s my trial-and-error kid. It didn’t help that she had a very bad first grade year (which spawned my blog PragmaticMom due to all the catch up we needed to do). I sought assistance on how to get her to love reading from everyone I knew: librarians (who suggested the popular but repetitive Rainbow Fairy series), ex-teacher mom friends (I started a book club for her based on one mom’s recommendation, and indexed my picture books according to level of difficulty thanks to another), teachers (Explode the Code workbooks were dutifully done during the summer), and went to lectures on literacy (put a basket of books in the bathroom and rotate them!).
I found that I wasn’t the best choice to read with my child. We fought over reading and it was torture. My husband ended up taking over for a summer. He was much better at coaxing her to read aloud. (Thanks honey!).
Bit by bit though, through trial and error, we, as a collective family unit, made progress in the reading department. I learned to relax to make reading enjoyable. This made my daughter want to read more. The more she read, the more comfortable she got. I give a lot of credit to the You Read to Me and I’ll Read to You series which I found in the overstock section of a local bookstore.
During the course of first grade through fourth grade, I tried lots of things (see below), and then one day … around the middle of third grade but definitely by the end of fourth grade, a magical thing happened: She was a reader! The voracious kind that sneaks a flashlight under the covers to read way past her bedtime.
I think that trying lots of different strategies is the key to unlocking a love for reading in any child. I know that I presented a lot of ideas, but remember that we did these over the course of five years. The effort I made was well worth it; teaching your child to read is a gift that keeps on giving!
What has worked for you to get your child to love to read? Please leave a comment with your suggestions and book recommendations!
1) Trips to bookstores to buy books (maybe 4-5 times a year). We also have a color Nook and she enjoyed the novelty of ebooks for a few months but that didn’t last. Used book stores, garage sales, and library used book sales are also great places to acquire books.
2) Book recommendations from her friends. This works on two levels. Her friends’ recommendations carry more clout than mine, and you can borrow the books.
3) I started a book club for her and her friends after 1st grade. This was very rewarding and I think it helped to make reading fun! We had local authors Mitali Perkins and Karen Day visit our book club which was an amazing experience. I bet you have local KidLit authors where you live. They also will Skype!
4) Trips to library to select books (maybe monthly)… I would buy the book if there was interest but we had trouble getting through it after 3 weeks (which is our normal checkout time for a book). We found that smaller branch libraries were less intimidating so we’d also change up the library and go to neighboring towns.
5) Personal library of Just Right For Me books in her room as well as throughout the house. Don’t forget the bathrooms! And don’t forget to rotate the books!
7) Author visits at book stores.
8) I used picture books extensively especially advanced picture books when she was in 2nd and 3rd grade. I actually went though Great Books For Girls by Kathleen Odeon book by book at 2 libraries. These were great books and I was able to read to all 3 kids at the same time as she has two younger siblings. We would read 30-50 picture books a week. We all have very fond memories of this time and she still enjoys overhearing picture books that I read to her younger brother. I LOVE PICTURE BOOKS and they are for ALL AGES!!!
9) We also did shared reading. Which is simply to say that we took turns reading. At first, I’d read the more text dense pages and give her the lighter ones. Later, I’d take over if she misses five words or more per page.
10) Hooking her on a series. My favorite series though for 2nd grade is still the Cobble Street Cousins by Cynthia Rylant.
11) Graphic Novels. These were new to me at the time, but I think graphic novels are a great way to engage kids. She was into the Warriors series at the time but I’ve included some other very popular ones.
*To view any book more closely at Amazon, please click on image of book.
Bio: Mia Wenjen is PragmaticMom: Education Matters. She likes to blog on education, parenting and children’s literature when she’s not trying to get her three kids to read more. She has an obsession for making KidLit book lists that, strangely, people seem to enjoy. She hopes you will visit her blog.
Book Love, Melissa Taylor’s new book, gives parents fun ways to turn your reluctant reader into an enthusiastic reader. It includes the reasons why kids don’t like reading, what to do about it, and lots of book lists and printables.
Download my free "Can't Put 'Em Down Books for Kids" e-book for ages 2 - 18.
Also, I'll send you a bonus "23 Reasons to Read" printable poster!