Thursday, 19 December 2013

Reading is boring! How to encourage a reluctant reader

How to encourage a reluctant reader to read!

There can be no arguing that reading is an essential skill.  Not only does it develop our language skills and understanding of the world around but is also a source of joy and relaxation. 

The more that you read the more places you go.  The more that you learn the more things that you'll know."  Dr Seuss
However, for some, once they have mastered the basic skill of decoding text, reading becomes a chore; it is daunting; they have no enthusiasm for books and reading. Some children are not motivated to read and do not want to read daily, either, aloud to another or to themselves.  There is much research indicating that the progress of children who do not read regularly is lower than those who do.  One American project looked at the question     Why can't I skip reading tonight? and found the following results:

Child A reads 20 minutes per school day
Child B reads 5 minutes per school day
Child C reads 1 minute per school day
Reads for 3,600 minutes per school  year
Reads for 900 minutes per school year
Reads for 180 minutes per school year
An average of 1,800,000 words per school year
An average of 282,000 words per school year
An average of 8,000 words per school year
In the 90th percentile - i.e. the top 10% 
In the 50th percentile
In the 10th percentile i.e. the bottom 10%

Overcoming a child's reluctance to read is possible.  One of the first things to do is let your child have a choice of what they read; they do not need to read a fiction book.  There are a wide variety of texts for children to read and enjoy. Do not worry if your child chooses to re-read a book; a favourite book is a source of pleasure for all ages.  However, you can "guide" your child to a new book, either by the same author or to one that has a similar theme.  Discuss the choice of book, encouraging your child to explain why they like that book.  Ask them about their favourite character or favourite part of the book.  Can they give you an example from the text to support their answer?  For example, "I like Harry Potter because he is good at quidditch and he caught the snitch in his mouth!"  You can share your choice of book with your child too. The poet, Maya Angelou states, " Any book that helped a child to form a habit of reading,  to make reading one of his deep and continuing needs,  is good for him."

Visits to the local library can also enable a child to discover new books to read.  Some children may enjoy listening to the Story Time sessions that many libraries organise.  Local bookshops may also have meet the author events that could inspire a child to read.  Some schools have visiting authors too.  Children will also enjoy having money or book tokens to spend on books of their choice.

Of course today books are not just printed and children may be motivated to read after listening to audio books or watching well known stories on you-tube.  You can further expose your child to books and new reading texts by leaving piles of books around the house.

Allow your child to enjoy the books, discuss the characters, share the illustrations and generally discuss the story so far and what they think will happen next.  Although accurate reading/decoding is important so is the ability to make predictions about what might happen, to make inferences and to justify and explain their opinions about the text.             If the focus is solely on the decoding there is a danger that the text becomes daunting.  A very general rule to know if a child has chosen a text that is too difficult for them is the 1 in 20 rule; out of 20 words you would normally expect a child to find one word tricky.  Discretely count the errors a child makes on your fingers, if the child makes 5 errors over 20 words then the text is likely to be too difficult and you should guide them to a more appropriate text.

There are many ways for a child to enjoy a book; these are just a few

List the key events or characters
Draw or paint the character or the setting
Re-design the front cover
Create an advert for the book
Practise and read out their favourite part
Act out the story or part of the story - use puppets or even props
Design a board game based on the story
Write a letter to the author.
Retell the story

Many children are increasingly busy with after-school clubs and activities which are enjoyable, promote their well being and develop their learning and understanding of the   world.  However, children also need time to read so that they can let their imaginations go and explore their curiosities.  If the reading is away from other distractions then a child is more able to focus on the book.  When a child returns home from a club, is tired and has still to complete their home reading then they can feel that reading is a chore, something that must be done. They may be tempted to rush and become inaccurate in decoding and misunderstand the meaning of the text.  Having a quiet set time to read will allow the child time to enjoy reading.  Roald Dahl has said; "Books shouldn't be daunting, they should be funny, exciting and wonderful; and learning to be a reader gives a terrific advantage."

Perhaps the most important element in encouraging a child to read for pleasure is through role models both female and male.  (Research has found that boys who read with their fathers and see them reading are more enthusiastic about their reading and read with more accuracy).  By reading aloud to your child, discussing the book or simply sitting reading a book quietly and for pleasure demonstrates clearly that reading is a worthwhile activity.

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