The new school year is dawning, and many of you may already be dreading the never-ending fight of getting your children to read. As a teacher of middle school students, I heard the frustration from many parents who were seeking to help their children to find enjoyment in their reading. If this describes you, don’t fret! There are several things that you can do to encourage your child to enjoy reading.
1. Talk with your children about their books. Show them that you are interested in what they are reading and that what they are reading matters. Some great questions include: What do you like about the main character? Is there anything in this book that you can relate to? Who does (such and such character) remind you of? What is the main conflict of the story? If you were in this situation, what would you do?
2. Encourage participation in Accelerated Reader. Accelerated Reader is an amazing program that encourages reading books that challenge children’s reading skills without smoldering their desire to read. Many schools participate in this program, and it truly benefits children of all reading levels.
3. Start a book club with your child. This is my favorite. Alternate who chooses the book, and “meet up” every other day or once a week to discuss the novel. This should be very laid back, with a focus on pure enjoyment. Attempt to refrain from making literary connections with this (unless they just come up naturally in your discussion). Just make it a fun, special memory with your child. You can get creative with your meetings, as well. Does the book you are reading take place in a foreign country? Cook your child a meal inspired by that country’s cuisine. Does the book have an environmental emphasis? Have your child pick an environmental activity for you to do as a family. Attaching memory and fun to reading can help children to see that reading can be so enjoyable and not just a task.
4. “Catch” your child reading. Every once in a while, reward your child when you find him reading on his own. Maybe you can give him a piece of candy, a couple of dollars, or a $5 gift card to an ice cream shop. Doing this says to your child, “I know that I didn’t ask you to do this, but you chose to on your own and that makes me proud.”
5. Focus on your child’s interests. If your child is particularly interested in a certain topic (e.g. airplanes, dinosaurs, castles, or plants), take her to the library to show her the countless number of books on that topic! Your child might start by only looking at the pictures, but eventually, her curiosity will cause her to start reading for more information.
6. Communicate with your child’s teacher. Make it a priority to know what your child is reading in school and what is expected from him or her in reading. Find out if the teacher has any further suggestions or resources that may be beneficial in ensuring that your child has a successful year in school.
Finally, try to maintain a positive attitude with your child. Many children (especially strong-willed ones) will resist the idea of being forced to read. Try to refrain from nagging; choose instead to celebrate reading and any positive steps that are made. Reading is a lifelong hobby, and strong reading skills are proven to improve grades in all subjects. A positive attitude toward reading should ultimately be your goal for your child.
Best of luck, and happy reading!