Do you have a struggling reader? I did, too. Which is why I’ve developed some unusual strategies over the years to get my kids to love reading; strategies that fit with their unique personalities.
My tactics to encourage a love of reading do not involve punishments or rewards –unless the reward is a book. And not a big fan of keeping track of pages read, titles of books read, or minutes read either. I don’t think it encourages the ultimate goal of enjoying the book. Same with sticky note over-use, I don’t like it. While sticky notes can be helpful to practice and show thinking strategies, one can also get carried away with the notes and they can interfere with enjoying and comprehending the story. I’m just saying.
Here’s my the ultimate goal:
The goal is that my child loves reading.
Loving reading happens when my child discovers that the book itself is the reward.
What do you think? Do you agree?
With that goal in mind, here are the strategies I use to get my own children more engaged in books. Maybe these will work for you as well.
Guerrilla Tactics To Get Your Struggling Reader To Love Reading
1. Leave piles of books lying around the house. At first glance, this may appear slovenly, okay, yes it is but it works with my daughter. AJ’s rarely passed up a picture book, comic book, or magazine without reading it. (Yes, she’s 9-years old and still reads pictures books which I encourage. I count everything. And, picture books are generally at a 4th grade reading level.)
2. Play audio books in the car and during home time. This summer, AJ’s school assigned books to read. She’s not a big fan on being told what to read. So, I got the books on CD. Once I popped them in and we listened to a few minutes, she was hooked! (The White Giraffe and Jack Plank Tells Tales were two such books and she ended up loving both.)
3. Read aloud a book until your child is hooked; let them continue on their own. Often I get “too busy” to continue. (Or get a sore throat. Whatever.) Watch your child pick up the book and read to herself because she must know what happens. I did this with Emmy and the Incredible Shrinking Rat which really was a terrific story.
4. Unlimited library book check-out. I don’t understand why we often limit our children to a certain number of books. Granted, there can be fines if misplaced but I like to think of it as my contribution to buying my library a new wing. My suggestion is to not set limits — or set them high. Why not let your kids pick 25 books? Are we trying to encourage lots of reading or not? I let each of my kids fill a large tote bag. Try it and you’ll see how excited your kids get about going home to read all their new books! It’s like magic.
5. Money to spend at the bookstore — on any reading material.
6. No television during the weekdays and very minimal television on the weekend. (1 – 2 hours.) This means NO television in the background either. Really. Again, try it and you’ll see for yourself. (Let them get bored – they’ll live. Maybe they’ll even pick up a book.)
7. Limit the number of after-school activities during the school year. If you want your child to read, that child needs free time – he can’t be overbooked and too busy to read. Think about your priorities. I would even go so far as to say that if you have a struggling reader, skip after school activities until your reader is up to speed with reading. Unless that is all the love in the world. It does depend on the child.
What Kids Need at Home and School
Time in class to read.
Time at home to read.
Lots of books. Reading a lot of books improves reading ability. As in practice makes better. This is the big difference between struggling readers and good readers. While good readers read a lot, struggling readers do not and continue to not improve.
Just-right books. Read appropriate books that are not too challenging. Really. Use the 5 finger test. Or remember the 1 in 20 rule. In a just-right book, the child should only miss 1 in 20 words.
As far as what should happen at school, educator Alfie Kohen says, “Children are likely to become enthusiastic, lifelong learners as a result of being provided with an engaging curriculum; a safe, caring community in which to discover and create; and a significant degree of choice about what (and how and why) they are learning.”
Well said, don’t you think?
More Reading Resources:
Catching Readers Before They Fall by Pat Johnson and Katie Keier
What Really Matters in Fluency by Richard Allington
Reading Rockets website
Selling Reluctant Readers: 10 Marketing Tactics to Amp Up Fun (great post by Shaping Youth!)
What guerilla tactics have worked in your family to get your kids hooked on books?
Download my "Can't Put 'Em Down" book lists for your kids ages 3 - 13.
Also, I'll send you a bonus "23 Reasons to Read" printable poster!