As adults, we know the pleasures that reading can bring. Whether you like curling up on the sofa with a page-turner, relaxing in the bath with a magazine or reading around the topic of your favourite hobby, you’re probably already fully aware that reading can be fun!
For children who are still learning to read, though, there will be times when reading feels like a real chore and make it hard for parents trying to help their children’s reading. There is a lot to learn before they can dive in and get lost in a favourite book – and the brainpower involved in reading can be tiring, especially at the end of a long school day.
But if we want children to persevere and become really skillful readers, we need to show them that reading is a brilliant source of fun and enjoyment. Here are some tips for engaging reluctant readers and putting some of the fun back into reading, for those moments when they are struggling!
1. Keep sessions short
When your child’s finding reading hard work, keep the reading sessions short. Just five or ten minutes of reading every day is much better than slogging through an hour-long session once a week! You could schedule a quick five-minute session for just before an activity your child’s looking forward to. And sometimes, after five minutes, you might find they’re enjoying it and don’t want to stop yet!
2. Take turns
We want children to practise reading independently, but don’t forget it’s not cheating to take turns with the reading! Your child could read one page, section or chapter, and you could read the next. This has several advantages – it breaks the reading up into manageable chunks for your child, it shows that reading is an important activity that you can share, and it also means that they will be learning from the fluent, expressive way you read! It also makes it easier for you to talk about the book with your child – an essential part of building their comprehension skills, as well as their enjoyment.
3. Let them stop when they’re tired
This sounds pretty obvious, but it’s really important! Even if you’ve only scheduled a quick ten-minute read, react to the way your child is feeling and let them stop if they are really struggling. You can always pick up the book again later when they’ve got more energy.
4. Let them read what they want
It’s not a problem if your child often wants to revisit books they’ve read before. It’s actually really good experience to read something that might be a bit ‘easy’ every now and then as it’s brilliant for confidence, and it also allows your child to practise reading with expression and understanding.
It’s worth joining the library if there’s one near you so that your child can be involved in choosing their own books on topics that interest them. If they pick a book that’s too hard, help them read it – and if it’s an easy book, let them enjoy the feeling of achievement as they read it for themselves!
If you are unsure whether a book is the right level for your child, take a look at what too hard and too easy looks like.
5. Remember reading is not just about books
All reading is good reading at this stage in your child’s learning! Some children aren’t that interested in books yet, and that is fine. Encourage them to help you read things like shopping lists, to-do lists, recipes, adverts and posters, or look up information on topics that interest them online. Sometimes the key to reading for a child can be a magazine connected to one of their hobbies – even if the words look far too difficult, it’s amazing how much your child might be able to read if they’re motivated by the topic!
6. Add variety
Occasionally, children get a bit stuck on a particular book – maybe one that’s a bit too hard for them at the moment. If that happens, let them move on to something else – maybe something quite different! Sharing a variety of different types of books and reading together can really help keep it fun.
7. Make it rewarding
There’s nothing wrong with motivating your child with the occasional reward – whether it’s a sticker for their chart or a small treat. Giving little rewards now and again shows your child that you value reading. It also gives them something nice to work towards, even if they’re not getting much enjoyment from the reading itself.
All of our boxes come with sticker sheets and a progress chart, the ideal reward after a tiring reading session. Find out more here.
8. Read to them
This is possibly the most important tip of all! Keep on reading to your child – picture books, longer stories, non-fiction books or anything that interests you both. Listening to a great story or a fascinating non-fiction book read aloud will enable your child to experience some of the enjoyment of reading, before they’re able to read fluently themselves. They’re much more likely to realise that reading is worthwhile and persevere with it if they have had fun reading with you. Listening to books that are still a bit too tricky for them to read independently also means they will be extending their vocabulary and comprehension skills – it’s a win-win!
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