Posted: Jul 24, 2013 12:00 PM
“But Mom, I hate to read!” No parent ever wants to hear these words from a child. It can be particularly difficult for parents who have kids who hate reading when they themselves love to read and always enjoy sitting down with a good book.

Contributed by: Erica L. Fener, Ph.D.

There will always be some children who do not enjoy reading, regardless of their parents' attitudes and abilities. It is not always easy to figure out if there is a physical reason behind the resistance, such as a learning disability, let alone what will motivate the child. The good news is that there are a number of strategies available for parents who have kids who hate reading.

Focus on the interests and passions of the child

Take a step back and consider the things that excite your child. It is more likely that a child will enjoy a book if the subject relates to his or her interests. When you go to the library or the bookstore together, find sections with books on these subjects and help your child choose titles at the appropriate reading level.

Start small

Learning how to read can be overwhelming, particularly for children who do not enjoy it or who struggle at it. Consider ways to enjoy your child's interests together. For example, if your child loves baseball, take him or her to a game and read through the program together. Look up the score online or in the newspaper the next day. These activities often lend themselves naturally to reading suggestions on specific topics and will be better received than suggestions that come out of left field.

Practice shared reading techniques

Some children panic at the idea of reading a whole book on their own, regardless of the length. Make the task less stressful by offering to take turns reading. Start at the child's current level and build from there. For example, a child may only be comfortable reading one or two sentences at a time. Let him start there and work up to reading whole paragraphs and eventually whole pages at a time.

Seek out books with child-appropriate drawings and humor

Many people dismiss books that have lots of drawings as not being serious literature. The bottom line is that any well-written book that gets kids excited about reading is a book worth keeping. Consider the Captain Underpants series as well as classic comic book choices such as Calvin and Hobbes.

Illustrate the benefits of learning how to read

mother and daughter reading cookbook

While practical nonfiction selections may not be great works of literature, they can motivate reluctant readers to stick with reading. For example, if your child loves to help out in the kitchen, start reading the recipes together. Consider other books with step-by-step instructions as well, such as a craft book that teaches basic knitting skills.

Introduce series books

Many people do not consider series books to be great works of literature either, but readers of all ages often latch onto them because of their predictable themes and familiar characters. Series books are a great way to get kids motivated about reading and prepared for more substantial selections. There are series books available at a wide range of reading levels, ensuring that there are at least a couple of options that are appropriate for your child.

Assess potential reading issues

Reading disabilities and other academic struggles are not necessarily the reason children do not enjoy reading. However, sometimes they do play a role. If you are not able to assess problems on your own and have not gotten any feedback from your child's teacher, reach out to that teacher for help. She or he most likely knows the resources to get an evaluation done elsewhere, such as with the school’s reading specialist.

About the author: Erica L. Fener, Ph.D., is Vice President, Business Development Strategy and Analysis, at Progressus Therapy, a leader in connecting their candidates with school-based SLP jobs and early intervention service jobs.

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