How Can I Motivate My Child to Read?

boy reading

Many parents have asked me a variation of this question. These suggestions are mainly for struggling readers who will do anything to avoid reading. Peruse the list; use what you like; the most important factor is consistency.

  1. Set aside time each day as family reading time. If one of your children is a weak reader, but the others are avid readers, then he won’t feel singled out if everyone participates. You choose a time of day which you will be able to keep most consistently, whether it be morning, afternoon, or evening. You may want to start with fifteen minutes and gradually add more time. Let everyone choose his own reading material, the only requirement is that everyone is reading or listening to a story during that time. If your child prefers audio books, have him follow along with a hard copy. This is your excuse to set aside household chores and indulge yourself in a good book or magazine. No devices are allowed during this time, except for audio or e-reading. Make a commitment to do this the entire summer. You may have to miss some days, and some days will not go well, and you will think, “This is not working.” When you reach that point, remind yourself that you are committed to this until school resumes. By August, I guarantee that you will be pleased with the results.
  2. Allow for a variety of reading material. There are  limitless choices. A favorite of mine is magazines. You can find a variety on many levels covering any imaginable topic. Unlike a story, most articles can be read in part, and your child will benefit from improved fluency, vocabulary, as well as gaining knowledge on that topic. Picture books are written for all levels. I like to browse the youth section of the children’s room at our local library to find good picture books at fourth and fifth grade levels. One of my favorite is Rudy Rides the Rails. Other choices for older readers are Chicken Soup for the Teenage Soul and devotional books. Some parents have expressed concern to me that their children pick easy books. That’s o.k. because they are still reading. You can try to guide them to more challenging materials, but let it go if they resist.
  3. Popcorn reading. If your child needs help with reading comprehension or decoding, you can incorporate some popcorn reading. You read a page, then he reads a page. This can be modified where you read more, and he reads less, or vice versa. Since you’re reading together, you can ask questions in a more natural way. Do  you think the character is scared? How do you know?  As fluency improves, you can require him to read more. I notice that some children are more willing to read when an adult engages with them. One important suggestion is that you hold off on correcting them. I like to let the child finish a paragraph before rereading the sentence with the mistake. Many times, they correct themselves. If they don’t, I will ask, “Does that sound right to you?” Only at this point do I help if needed.
  4. Make It Fun. As  a family,  you can listen to an audio book. This is great because you can do this on long car trips also. Another fun activity is to turn off all lights and read by flashlight. Young children love to play with flashlights, and this trains beginning readers in tracking text. You  can also use stories as a riddle. Plan a trip to a blueberry farm; the day before read Blueberries for Sal, then ask your child(ren) to guess what activity you’re going to do. You can find other stories to fit any activity. Your children’s librarian is a great resource for ideas.
  5. Record their progress. I notice that children become more confident when they can measure their progress. You can simply keep a chart and use tally marks for pages read. If you want to reward them, you can drop a penny in a jar for each page. Your child will enjoy watching the jar fill as the summer progresses.

What would you like to add to this list?

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