Unmotivated. Reluctant. Struggling. These are all words that describe readers. Yet in today's culture, reading is one way to help your kids attain more academically. Here are some ideas to help motivate your kids to read more from parents who have been there.
Reading Between the Times
Seven-year-old Samuel and I sat on a towel in the shade. His hair was summer-swim wet, and his hands were wrapped around our tattered copy of Charlotte's Web. He read slowly but clearly.
Reading and fun in the sun. Both are key to my children's development. But shimmying books between baseball games and bike rides? Potential stressor. When my two older boys were small, I scheduled our days. Morning meant reading. Afternoon was for fun. But the boys resisted. They wanted to run, climb trees and make forts in the backyard. Books became a battleground.
With Samuel, however, I've hit a more gentle flow. Reading has become integrated — not separated. When we go to the park, I pack a book. My swim tote holds a book sealed in a plastic bag. There's always an inviting place to read. Sam will need rest and a snack sometime. Playing in the yard can bring tender moments for page turning under our old maple when fun-spent bodies are quiet and still. And real-life adventures can blend with those on the printed page.
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Help for Struggling Readers
When my twin boys began learning to read, I discovered that success came more slowly for some kids than for others. At the end of six months, one son was reading Arnold Lobel's Frog and Toad books; my other son still couldn't sound out the word it. I sought a reading specialist for advice. Here's what helped us:
Auditory games. We practiced rhyming words, as well as words that begin with the same sound. In one fun rhyming game, I would point to a body part and ask my boys to name it and come up with a rhyming word. I usually pointed to an arm, eye, hair, leg or nose. We'd also pay attention to sounds that were easily confused, such as the j and g in jar and guitar. (To practice these and other sounds, you can search for "phonics games" online.)
Memorization. After learning the alphabet in order, we memorized a scrambled version using the beat of a metronome. My sons learned to say common alphabet sounds, on beat, and in random order. We also used this method to learn Fry's first 100 sight words.
Today my sons are in the sixth grade and are confident readers. My son who initially had trouble reading now gives me plot advice for the Adventures in Odyssey "The Imagination Station" book series for first- and second-graders. But he won't read them because he says they're too easy. After the struggle it was to get him to read, I can live with that!
Helping Your Reluctant Readers
When Owen started second grade 20 words under the reading benchmark, my husband and I knew it was time to do something. But how could we motivate a boy who found reading frustrating and insurmountable?
Owen loved football, so we used trading cards as a reading reward — one card for every 10 minutes he read to us. Two keys helped this method work: The rewards were easily achievable, and we constantly replenished his supply of interesting reading material.
By the end of second grade, Owen's reading level was 15 words above the benchmark, and we felt like we had scored a touchdown.
Finishing the School Year Strong
My kids begin the spring semester with a bang but often lose steam as the term rolls on. To keep them motivated and engaged during the final months of the school year, our family posts a special calendar that is enhanced with stickers and color-coded for each child. We highlight the holidays and events the kids look forward to, such as spring break, weekend getaways or parties. Books that have to be read are scheduled out by dividing the number of pages by the number of weeks until the due date, so our kids know how much to read each week. Long-term projects are divided the same way. Extracurricular activities, such as recitals, tournaments and so on, are also placed on the calendar.
We keep a pen near the calendar so our kids can mark off completed tasks and the days that go by. They enjoy having something to work toward, and they feel a sense of accomplishment. Before we know it, projects are completed, books are read — and we're ready for summer!
Little Ways to Raise a Reader
When our second child didn't like reading, I used simple strategies to make reading more fun. I asked her to read a book that included food, and then we made the food found in the book. If it included muffins, we would make muffins. We also explored nonfiction books that interested her, such as butterflies and horses. And spreading out a blanket at the park for reading also became a favorite activity — a reading date.
4 Ways to Motivate Kids to Read
If you're looking for more ideas on this topic, you might want to read the PluggedIn blog post called "4 Ways to Motivate Kids to Read" to get a few more ideas.