When I was four years old, my father bought me a book I instantly fell in love with, ‘Milly Molly Mandy Stories’. While I could hardly read back then, I loved looking at the pictures and following the random adventures of a little girl while my parents read it aloud for me. The book was followed by a plethora of other books including the Nancy Drew Series, The Famous Five and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.How to cultivate a lifetime reading habit in your child? Click To Tweet
By the time I was 15, I had built a mini library in my room. My parents were ecstatic and wanted me to set a good example for my younger brothers. For some reason, they could never finish a book. You would hand them a book, and a few minutes later you would find them gazing out of the window and yawning repeatedly. A decade later, I am still trying to get them to read a book. However, I guess that ship has sailed. It is far better to cultivate a lifetime reading habit from when they are young.If your child is a reluctant reader, here is how you can encourage him: Click To Tweet
Here are Our 5 Essential Easy to Follow tips for Parents to encourage their Reluctant Readers
If your child is a reluctant reader, here is how you can encourage her:
1. Reading for Fun and Pleasure
Children love colours, illustrations, and interactive details. Introduce your kids to books as soon as you can. Books with fabric material, touch and feel, and musical features are great for beginners and their sensory development. I remember when my sister-in-law was trying to toilet-train my toddler niece, she used to read a book to her on the specific topic. The book had several musical buttons including sounds of flushing and running tap water. Not only it encouraged her to learn how to use the washroom, it also piqued her interest in books.
The ‘That’s NOT my…’ series is perfect for the very young beginner ready with bright colours, textures and characters that they will recognise and love.
Besides offering your children visually pleasing books, further nurture their love by setting a snugly bedtime storytelling ritual. To hold their interest, ask them to choose a book and read a few pages every night until the book is finished. Don’t read in a dull and monotonous style. Use different voices for each character to make each and every single word alive and expressive.
Even when the little ones have learned how to read, there is no need to stop the routine. When they are older, take turns and ask them to read a few sentences aloud. It will build their confidence when they have to speak in public. Besides strengthening their bond with parents, children form a unique connection to books that stay with them for a lifetime.
It can be tricky to encourage older children to read who frantically run away at the sight of books. You can start with teen-oriented comic books, graphic novels, riddles, how-to-dos, and manga. They are aesthetically appealing compared to regular paperbacks and have a relatively a small amount of text. They can read it in one sitting! Allow them to explore a large variety of texts, mediums, and genres. They will definitely stumble upon something they will enjoy.
2. What Do They Love?
Every child has an all-consuming set of interests – it can be football, rockets, superheroes, aliens, insects, and even historical landscapes. I know a child who was obsessed with ships from a very young age. To find out more about the subject, he asked his parents to get him books on ships and other water-borne vehicles. After reading on the history of watercraft, he got curious about world wars and different countries across the globe. Today, the 10-year-old is a well-read history buff who knows all about Romans and Greeks, far more than the average grown-up does.
If your child lacks motivation to read a certain book, don’t pressure them in to it. Children don’t like being pushed and they may stress out under pressure. Instead of forcing them to read To Kill a Mockingbird, buy them books based on subjects they are genuinely interested in. Find out their inspirations and passions and fill up their bookshelves with things that they would absolutely love to read.
Better still, visit the book shop and let them guide you to their favourites. Even if this may be manga or comics, or other illustrated reading material, don’t lose sight of the fact that it still is reading material. They are still having to work at reading printed text, assessing and comprehending story-lines and characters.
If your child happens to love a series or writer that you absolutely can’t stand or despise, bite your tongue, hold off the emotions and let them just get on with it. After all, they are still reading and that’s what really counts.
3. Movies Vs. Books – Incite their Interests
When Life of Pi came out, my friends and I decided to read the book first. Even though we enjoy reading, it seemed like a tedious task. The movie was out there with awesome 3D effects and picturesque details. We felt impatient. In the end, only half of us managed to finish the book. The movie was a treat, but even with its fantastic graphics and special effects, it failed to capture the essence of the novel. I was truly glad to have read the book first.
Film adaptations seem like an easy way out. Today, when every other movie is based on a popular novel, it can be hard to make your kids read the bestsellers and classics. My friend has a 9-year-old who badly wanted to watch Harry Potter series in one go. My friend told him he can have a movie marathon during his summer break only if he agrees to give books a try. She bought the first book in the series for him. At first the little guy resisted, but a few chapters in, he was completely hooked! Currently, he is on book three and is adamant to finish the series. He doesn’t want to watch the movies until he is done with the novels.
Has your kid already watched The Wizard of Oz? No worries! It can be the other way around! Re-engage your child’s interest by bringing them books based on their favorite movies and cartoons. Nowadays, you will find a large number of book adaptations of popular cartoon characters such as Pokémon, minions, Disney characters and superheroes. They are not exactly great works of literature, but they are a start!
4. Wonderful Libraries and Cozy Reading Nooks
A library card has a lot of power. It is effectively a passport to an infinite number of different worlds. Browsing bookshelves with numerous books of their choice enables them to escape to the world of reading. In libraries and bookstores, they can explore and gravitate towards the genres they are fond of, or maybe unsure but interested in.
Library books, allow you and your child to ‘test drive’ story-lines and author styles for very little cost. Almost everyone I know has had at some point or another, loved a library book so much they have decided to buy it for themselves.
A library card also allows them to borrow books that they have to finish reading within a limited amount of time. Of course, this doesn’t mean they cannot extend the borrowing time, but there is a certain push to try to finish reading something by a library deadline. To encourage them even more, you can ask your kid to make a list of books they have read and want to read. Teenagers can keep a check on their reading lists on bookish websites like Goodreads. Once they are done reading, do have discussions regarding characters, interesting phrases, different possible endings…if they have read different authors in the same genre, you can even discuss how different authors might have told a similar story.
To create a calm and peaceful ambience, parents can set up a cozy reading corner where they simply drop back and enjoy a good read. Soft pillows, giant beanbags, huge easy chairs, rugs, throws, and lots and lots of books. Being able to curl up, get comfortable, feel safe externally, will encourage them (and you) to easily get lost in a story.
5. Reading with Friends
Tell my niece to read a book instead of watching TV, and she will make a face. But ask her to read a book to her baby cousin, she will happily and eagerly do so. She has read dozens of books to my 1 year old. The two have now teamed up to turn the pages together. She reads the words aloud while my son looks at the pictures.Encourage your reluctant reader to read to their younger siblings. Click To Tweet
Encourage your reluctant reader to read to their younger siblings or cousins. It will gradually instill the habit of reading in all the kids in the house. You can also create challenges among their friends to read a certain number of books in a year. Challenges such as 16 Classics Before You Are 16 have motivated many a youngster to read great pieces of classic literature.
It is important that your kids see YOU read too. Children usually imitate their parents. If they see you hovering around books, they will surely develop interest as well. Share your childhood favourites with your child, whether it was Little House on the Prairie, Huckleberry Finn, or Wind in the Willows. There’s something exciting about sharing your own favourites with your child, but don’t be too disappointed if they are not as excited as you were when you were their age. Times change and with it, so do trends and what’s best and what’s popular.
With support, encouragement and the right environment, you can transform your little reluctant reader into a bookworm.
For a video summary of the 5 tips on how to encourage your young reluctant reader: