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5 Tips on How to Encourage Reluctant Readers

June 17 2020

 1. Don’t push them to read above their level.

Doing so has the opposite effect of what you want, because they’ll learn to associate reading with being hard and not fun. The best thing to do is to support their reading at the level they’re at and to let them set the pace.

What you’ll find is that they, like other child readers, read in a cycle; they’ll read books at their level for a while, then pick up something a little harder once in a while, then read some more at their level, and so on.

Eventually, they start finding their current comfort level too easy and move on to the next level all on their own.

2. Never tell them they can’t read a book because it’s too hard for them.

Let the sky be their limit.

If they decide to put the book down because it’s too hard, that’s fine. If they decide they’re determined to read it no matter what, that’s fine too. Either way, the fact they were even interested in a harder book is a win, because it means they’re starting to realize the advantages of being a skilled reader and showing interest in reading harder books.

One way you can support them when they decide to pick up a hard book is to offer to read it with them. Depending on how far above your kid’s reading level a book is, you can have them read to you and help them out when they stumble or don’t understand something, switch off who reads aloud every paragraph/page/chapter, or even just read to them.

3. Let them read what interests them.

Step 1 of teaching a reluctant reader to be an enthusiastic reader is to get them to read for pleasure, and they can’t do that if you’re making them read something they don’t enjoy. It doesn’t matter if it seems like a weird choice of reading material; so long as it’s age-appropriate content-wise, let them read what they will.

Comic books? Fantastic.

Manuals? Wonderful.

Books on a strangely specific subject? Stupendous.

Series books? Hell yeah!

4. When getting them new books, choose titles on topics that interest them.

Have they been talking about llamas lately? Or asking space-related questions? Get them a book on those topics.

Are they obsessed with all things Pokémon or really into Minecraft or Fortnite? You might not be happy about how much time they spend playing video games, but providing them with books about those topics might be a good compromise as a starting point—they get off the computer for a few hours and practice their reading but with a topic they really enjoy.

Remind them that it’s okay to find reading hard; it really does get easier the more you practice.

Explain to them that there's nothing wrong with finding reading hard. You used to think the same thing when you were a child too. Everyone did.

Reading is really tricky at first. That's because our brains aren’t made for reading; they actually have to rewire themselves in order to do it. It has to train itself to make the connection between the letters, the sounds, and what they mean, and then on top of that it has to learn to recognize them super fast. That's why it’s so hard at first when you don't have lot's of practice: your brain practicing reading faster and faster. 

But the more practice you put in, the faster your brain gets at remembering how to read and the better you get at reading.

(Photo: "Reading" by Marco Nedermeijer is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

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