Q: I love to read, my older son loves to read, but my daughter hates it. How can I get her as excited about reading as the rest of us are? I’d be happy if she read anything, but she’d rather do anything else than read. I bring home stacks of books, and she rejects them all. When she’s tested, she can read, but she won’t do it. She’ll start a book, and abandon it. Help!
A: It may be time for a reading intervention if your child consistently answers “What do you want to read?” with; “I don't.” Emergency measures are needed!
It sounds like you did just the right thing with one child, but it's not working with this one. I'm going to suggest that you put aside your expectations about your family's reading characteristics and take some time to observe this child as if you hadn't really done that before. It might help to think of yourself as a personal assistant rather than a parent, teacher, or friend when it comes to reading.
Here's a step-by-step guide to try:
Observe or ask your child, and then tell the Children's Librarian what most inspires her outside the world of books. Maybe she loves movies, animals, baseball, drawing, cooking, chess, silly humor, snowflakes . . . whatever it is, we will look for books related to what really inspires her,;what really grabs her attention.
Take home a variety of books – short or long; illustrations or photos; fiction or non-fiction; comic books or magazines; biographies or fantasies; jokes, magic tricks, cooking, knights, dragons, spies, warriors, talking owls; a sample of stuff that includes anything that catches the eye. (NOTE: If your child gets overwhelmed by choices, take 3, not 12.
Do not worry about the level. Assume that you are going to read it aloud to her. By doing this, we open up the possibilities – and we're more likely to find something she really wants to hear about. Choose books with attractive covers or any super-appealing characteristics.
When you get home, lay out all the choices in front of her – on the floor or the bed or couch. Don't use her homework area. Ask her to choose based on the cover illustration, or read the front flap or the first page to see if it grabs her attention. Ask her to pick which one to try.
If she’s still resisting, arrange a relaxed, quiet time. On the couch, in a hammock, or the backseat of the car, invite her to close her eyes as you read aloud. Let the author weave his magic threads...and remember to see the last blog post on reading aloud. There was some stuff about fidgety children listening...
Remember you can ask the Children’s Librarian to help you find both the printed book and an audiobook. Don’t get fixated on your child reading along with the recording; the focus here is on getting her engaged in a story. However, it may help to have the book to consult – to see the illustrations, or a map to the fantasy world, for example. That is enough!
Audiobooks are also great if she has time on her own without you, or if you don't read aloud well in English, or if you commute together and can both listen as you drive – or if your child gets hooked on a series you dislike; she can use headphones. We give out audiobooks frequently to working parents, commuters, immigrants learning to pronounce English better, reluctant readers, and of course kids with vision impairments, as well as garden-variety avid readers.
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