Encourage Reading

How to get your child on the book bandwagon.

“Mom, I hate reading!” Do these words sound familiar? If so, you’re not alone. Although many children sail through learning their ABCs, core phonics and the fundamentals of reading, certain youngsters find learning to read an activity filled with fear, frustration and, in many cases, tears. Reluctant readers may find they are simply not interested in the activity or that it’s too difficult. If your child is facing an uphill battle with books, heed the following strategies.

Let the kids decide. Parents should let their kids read whatever their little heart’s desire as long as it’s age-appropriate. “Yes, Diary of a Wimpy Kid isn’t educational or good literature in any sense of the word­— but kids love it,” Lisa Dalesandro, founder of www.thebookmama.com and author of the forthcoming book, Read to Succeed: 25 Ways to Get Your Child to Love Reading (April 2012). Focus on the bigger goal of instilling a love of reading so that your kids make it a habit. “Believe me, they won’t be reading Diary of a Wimpy Kid when they’re 15. But you need to get them jump started and the best way is by letting them choose their own books,” adds Dalesandro.

Read aloud. For young kids, such as preschoolers, kindergartners, reading aloud is a smart strategy. Research shows that children whose parents consistently read aloud to them have stronger vocabularies and better story comprehension. Reading to another person also benefits older readers. “My 10 year old and I are reading Call of the Wild, which is a story that is too difficult for her to read, but together we can read it and discuss the story,” explains Dalesandro.

Spark their interest. Help kids find reading materials that inspire and entertain them. If your child loves Star Wars, pick up the Star Wars based chapter books or comic books. If your daughter is a dancer, look for books on performance art. Bottom line: Select tomes that mirror your child’s interests.

Start at the right level. Be sure to begin with literature that is at or below your child’s reading level. You don’t want to start with a book that’s too challenging. “If kids get frustrated, they’ll be resistant to reading,” points out Dalesandro.

Develop a reading routine. Kids become better readers when it is part of their daily routine. Whether it’s a bedtime tale or story time at the library, parents should set some ground rules about reading and stick to them.

Set an example. Let your kids see you reading regularly. It doesn’t matter if it’s the newspaper, a magazine, a Kindle or a book. Educational research continues to show that when a child sees their parents enjoying reading, they tend to be stronger readers.

Turn off the distractions. Too often kids complain that they don’t have time to read. Turn off the electronic distractions and most children will easily gain an hour back in their day, which can be used for books.

Provide positive reinforcement. Parents should lovingly encourage reading and support their child’s progress. “Parents shouldn’t stress their kids out with unrealistic and unnecessary expectations. Remember, they’re only kids and they learn how to read at different speeds,” says Dalesandro

Select a series. Once your little one has mastered some of the basics of reading, encourage him to find a series or trilogy he likes. Sometimes it just takes your child to find a character that he connects with and he’s set. For kid-friendly recommendations, check out Scholastic’s lists http://www.scholastic.com/parents/books-and-reading/book-lists/.

With this plan of action, you can watch your resistant reader slowly transform into a voracious one. Numerous studies link independent reading to good grades and high test scores. It’s the secret weapon of academic achievement. And by following this plan of action, your child learns that reading a good book is truly one of life’s great joys.