Motivating the Unmotivated Reader

One of the biggest concerns I hear from parents is that their child does not enjoy reading. Sometimes it’s because a child struggles with reading, but often times it’s not a reading problem but rather a lack of interest. So how does one get a reluctant reader to want to pick up a book? There is no one right way that works for every child. I wish it was that simple! But, depending on your child’s age, ability, and reason for being unmotivated, here are some suggestions you can try that may help turn a reluctant reader into a motivated one.

1. Offer a Variety of Reading Materials – Let your child choose what they read when you can, but make sure they explore a variety of genres and materials. Anything counts – fiction, non-fiction, articles, comics, guide books, even reading a map or directions to build something or make something.  For kids who are more tech driven, have them read a book or article on a tablet, computer, or other device. Some kids’ ebooks are even interactive, which makes them more engaging. Think about your child’s interests when looking for fiction and non-fiction books. There are many great series out there for kids with a wide range of topics. You can find some here (https://literacymatterstoday.wordpress.com/2013/10/03/popular-childrens-book-series/). Also check your local library. Fiction books are grouped by age/grade level, with series books kept together for easy searching, and non-fiction books are grouped by topic. For just about every general topic, there are NF books available in a range of ages/reading levels.

2. Set Goals, Set Aside Time, and Offer Rewards or Incentives – You won’t turn your child into a successful reader overnight, but like any behavior change you are trying to make, it helps to have a plan. Get your child on board and have them help set goals (number of books read, or minutes read per week, etc.). Decide together on a plan of action for how these goals are going to be met (when? where?) and what will be the end reward if the goal is met? As goals are met, make new ones.

3. Build Confidence – Praise your child as they work toward meeting their goals, offer encouragement, and show them that you are proud of them when they make an effort, show improvement, and when they meet their goals. Give help and gentle reminders or guidance when needed.  Avoid using reading as a punishment or a chore.

4. Engage in Different Types of Reading
Shared Reading – alternating page or paragraph, this is great for lengthier texts and allows the parent a chance to model reading
Echo Reading – parent reads a sentence or passage, child repeats the same reading (this is good for younger kids learning to read and works best if kids point to the words while reading)
Choral Reading – parent and child read the same passage or page together at the same time
Read-Alouds – parent reads to child, even older kids still like to be read aloud too (books that are read aloud can be slightly above your child’s reading level)
Silent Reading – child reads to him/herself – books should be at child’s independent reading level

5. Read and Watch TV and Movies

6. Books on Tape – Have your child listen to books they are reading on tape. They can follow along with the book to see the words being spoken. Listening to books on tape makes comprehension easier because kids can focus on the story rather than thinking about the words. This is a good way to have kids read books they have to for school but maybe struggle with.

7. Record Reading – Video or tape record your child reading and play it back for them. Let them see how they sound and what areas of fluency they need to improve on – speed, accuracy, prosody (expression). This is good for children learning to read or needing to work on fluency.

8. Model Reading – Let your child see you reading as often as you can. Show your child when you read for work, daily life, or pleasure. Show that reading is important for gaining information as well as a way to relax and escape in a good story.  If you have older children who read independently, read what they are reading, even if you aren’t reading to them. This shows them that books can be enjoyable and allows you to participate in reading discussions with them, which is great for building comprehension. Give the message that reading is informative, necessary, and most importantly fun.

9. Ask Questions – Ask your child about what they are reading. Help them build comprehension by having them tell you what their book is mostly about (main idea); summarize or paraphrase what they read (details); draw or describe a picture of what they just read (visualization); tell how what they read is similar to something in their own life or something they’ve read or seen before (making connections);  tell how what they read is similar or different to another book or to the movie (comparing/contrasting); tell what they learned or what facts or details they found interesting (drawing conclusions); and explain what they think what they read means (making inferences).

10. Make Reading a PriorityGive plenty of opportunities for your child to read and have plenty of books on hand. Set aside a time daily to read to your child or have them read to themselves (bedtime, nap time, after school), and give them time, quiet, and space to read whenever they feel like it at any time of the day (my kids love to read when on the potty!). Take them to the library or book store often for story times or activities and to get books. Keep a variety of reading materials on hand that interest your child, even when traveling, on long car rides, or when waiting at appointments or at another child’s activities (e-books are especially good for these times!).

11. Utilize Technology As mentioned before, let your child read on an e-reader, tablet, computer, or smartphone to make it more interesting. You can download a free e-reading app to any online device to turn it into an e-reader. There are several to choose from, but Kindle and Storia are good ones. Using technology to help with reading doesn’t have to be limited to e-books however. There are also many websites devoted to promoting reading, with tons of games, ideas, digital books, articles, resources, and activities to get kids reading while making it fun and engaging. There are also online book communities for kids to share what they read, and online book clubs for kids. For a sampling of reading sites available for kids online, check out the Reading Websites column of this blog, or you can do a simple search of what you are looking for (fun reading sites, reading sites for kids, etc) and find pages of results. For younger kids, you can make reading more fun and engaging using products like the Tag reading pen, a LeapPad, Leapster, or other handheld devices. 

12. Play Games – Visit any learning store or search online, and you will find dozens of reading board games that can help build reading skills and make reading more fun. There are also online games, printable games, and interactive apps that engage kids in reading activities. Games are great for helping to build confidence, increase comprehension, and motivating kids to read.

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