I absolutely love my job! I get to spend the day reading to kids, reading with kids and doing everything humanly possible to get them to recognize the importance of reading… and get paid to do it!
Okay… so you know that reading is important. (And in case you missed that memo… check here for my post on the importance of reading.)
But what type of reader do you have in your house?
Over the years of teaching, I’ve learned there are 3 kinds of readers:
- Those who are good at reading and love to read.
- Those who are good at reading, but yet “don’t like” to read.
- Those who struggle with reading and do not like to read.
1) Those who love to read… this is the kid who is easy… shove a book in his hands and let him go. For these kids, reading is a positive experience. (Chances are these are the kids who are doing very well in other areas in school. Yes… reading and doing well in school go hand in hand. Thank you Captain Obvious!)
Your biggest problem is going to be staying current with the newest books. These kids know what’s new and they want to be reading it. (Parents of struggling readers try really hard not to stick your tongue out at this point!)
2) And then there are those kids who are good at reading but “don’t like” it. I’ll be honest… I didn’t realize there was this kind of kid until my son was in my class. He’s this kid. (And yes… they are usually boys.)
Living in a family of readers is tough for him :)… He calls us Book Nerds. (He hasn’t realized yet that we take that as a compliment.)
Although he doesn’t read nearly as much as I would like him to do… I secretly giggle when his Sports Illustrated for Kids magazine comes and he reads it cover to cover. Or when he “had to read” for a class and I put a sports biography in his hand… He reads it beginning-to-end long before it’s due.
This is the type of kid that will read if he has the right material. Pay attention to what they read and what books/magazine that they talk about. Many boys prefer to read non-fiction: informational books, biographies, how-to books or stories that are short.
3) There is the kid who doesn’t like to read… mainly because it’s hard for them. And let’s face it… most of us don’t enjoy doing something that is hard for us (for me…exercise comes to mind… ;)). Parents of this child… stay strong my friend, stay strong!
You know reading is important, but… you have a child in your house who didn’t get that memo, or worse… doesn’t care about the memo… and you are ready to pull out your hair getting this kid to read!
Continue doing everything you’ve been doing, and I know you’ve tried plenty… but here are a few reminders and tips.
7 Tips to help your struggling reader
1) Set aside time to read at least 4-5 times a week. Yes…this will be a struggle since they’re going to buck you. Be consistent… this should be a non-negotiable. These are the types of kids to set page goals with, not minutes. They will know every trick in the book to waste time. By setting a page goal of say… 5-10 pages per day, this gives them some power. When the pages are read, they are done for the day.
2) Use incentives such as…
- Trade time for something they love to do… certain number of pages read translate into minutes to spend watching TV or playing video games.
- Or so many books read= a trip to McDonalds or a park.
- Or just down and out bribe them…(yes I went there…) there are some summers I have paid a buck a book that was read (with guidelines). But some times, desperate times call for desperate measures.
3) Read WITH your child…he reads a page, you read a page. (I know at times this will be painful… just keep reminding yourself… Reading is important, reading is important… and who knows…maybe you’ll really get into the book!)
4) Have “reading parties” where every one brings a book and snuggles in a spot to read their book. Sometimes just snuggling in next to mom or dad is enough motivation to read for a while.
5) If your struggling reader has a younger brother or sister, you have just scored big time! Get them to read to their younger sibling(s).
Have them read a picture book. This means the stories are usually shorter (and less intimidating) and probably at a lower reading level (which will make them feel successful when they read it). They get practice reading and the younger sibling gets the benefit of being read to… also very important!
6) Make sure your struggling reader is reading books that are interesting to them. Kids will read “above their reading level” if they find the book interesting. But also keep in mind not all of their choices will be high quality literature. (Did the book Captain Underpants pop into anyone else’s mind?) At this point, the goal is to get them reading… and the best way to do that is make sure they are interested in what they read.
7) If the book your kid is reading (and enjoying) is part of a series, try sticking to the series. A series gives your reader the same format, the same characters, and often the same setting for several books. These familiar things will help them understand the story more quickly.
What should they read?
Here are two very popular series in my classroom this year… especially with my struggling readers:
- Who Was… series (examples: Who was Babe Ruth?, Who was Abraham Lincoln? Who was Dr. Seuss? These are VERY KID friendly and SHORT biographies of famous people in our history.)
- I Survived… series (fictional stories set in real historical events like the attack on Pearl Harbor, September 11, Battle of Gettysburg, etc)
If you’re still struggling for good reading material here are some authors to check out:
- Judy Blume & Roald Dahl (authors that we grew up on… classic stories!)
- Dan Gutman (author of My Weirder School series…shorter books… stories are silly mysteries that take place at Ella Mentary School)
- Andrew Clements & Patrick Jennings (great stories without overly complicated plots… main characters are usually in upper elementary school)
- Bill Wallace (writes mainly animal stories… many are funny)
- Dave Pilkey (Captain Underpants series) & Jeff Kinney (Diary of a Wimpy Kid series) Don’t judge… remember desperate times…desperate measures! And every single one of my struggling readers will read these.
In fact it is because of the HUGELY popular Diary of a Wimpy Kid series, that book publishers stood up and took notice (and in a hurry) that kids like books with lots of pictures.
Hence… the graphic novel has taken the children’s book scene by storm. There are MANY books and series that now fit into the graphic novel genre. Big Nate, Dork Diaries, Dumb Diaries, Middle School Years, I Funny…are just a few series in this genre. (Doug TenNapel is another popular graphic novel author.)
**Warning for conservative moms like me: There are some graphic novels that are shortened versions of popular fantasy series… and the pictures in these are well… graphic (pun intended!) Sometimes I don’t want to put these images into my kid’s imagination. It’s a good idea to flip through this type of graphic novel before putting it into your kid’s hands.
And I could keep rambling on and on about books and authors, but I want to know some of your book suggestions and tricks to use with the readers in your family…please share below!