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Education Blogger: 7 Ways to Engage a Reluctant Reader

Reading, you’re doing it right now. Why? Are you hoping to learn something? If you have a non-reader or a reluctant reader, the following tips might help.

  1. High interest material makes reading so much more fun. Not everything we need to learn is fascinating, but frequently there is a hook.

In my classes, I have students read fiction and nonfiction. This week our nonfiction was learning how matches (the ones to light a fire) were made. The words were big and science related. It was a tough read, but when phosphorus came into the picture, it was more interesting.

One student plans on going into the military. We discussed how dangerous phosphorus can be and how it’s being misused. The discussion about phosphorus kept students interested.

Just know, a teacher is more restricted than you are at home. If your child’s interest is something like a video game, find material about the creator or even playing tips. In the beginning, especially, reading is more important than ”educational” material choice.

2. Short readings are worthwhile. Reading a short article online has value. A reluctant reader can see the end. It helps. Ask for “good” reading. Expect effort.

If it’s a poem or a joke, have your child read it several times to develop fluency. Once a student knows he can read one thing well, it may help him to try to read more.

Song lyrics can be worked in. I had a friend who loved to sing “Drift Away.” Only, she sang it wrong. She told me she wasn’t a big Beach Boys fan, but she still really liked the song. I was puzzled. She sang “Give me the Beach Boys and free my soul.”

Read lyrics. Read things like “The Pledge of Allegiance.” There are many articles and videos out there that show how kids have "mislearned" things they quote because they’ve never actually read them. Read them.

3. Share the reading responsibilities. Alternating words becomes tiresome, but alternating sentences isn’t bad.

You’d be amazed how many students cannot recognize a sentence. Some students read from left to right margin and stop. They believe that is what makes a sentence. Helping students to know a sentence starts with a capital letter and ends with an end mark (.!?) helps them read and write better.

Explaining that a sentence is generally one idea is also helpful.

4. Have your child read something to help you. I cook a lot, so the easy example here is to have my child read me a recipe. But there are many other “technical” examples. If you have to assemble something, have your child read the instructions, or have your child read the back of a can or box to see how to use the product.

5. Read with “voices.” If what you’re reading has different characters, you and your child should try using different character voices. It just makes it fun and funny. I ask this of my high school students. Recently I was told, “Ms. Dove, I don’t know what a young goat named Steve sounds like.” All of the other students burst out laughing. It means they were paying attention and waiting with anticipation. It was baaaaahd but very funny.

6. Don’t make this a painful experience. My daughter tells me I ruined her favorite book when she was little because I got upset when she didn’t read it well. Don’t do that. I still get sad when I think about it. Don’t demand perfection and set a timer. If your child wants to keep reading, keep reading, but if the timer goes off and she wants to be done, stop. Say something positive.

7. "Choose your own adventures" stories give the reader some control over the story and can be read multiple times. These types of stories are fun to play with. Making silly choices adds joy to reading. If you enjoy doing it, you’ll do it more.

Summer is coming. Encourage reading. It’s a skill everyone needs.

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