Helping reluctant readers enjoy books
Helping your child love books isn't as easy as reading to them every night. We found that out when 3Po and Jammy were babies. The Pea had always loved books, and she still does, so we thought we were awesome parents for reading to her each and every night. But when we started reading to 3Po and Jammy, they were just not interested. We despaired of getting them to sit still long enough for more than a page or two -- that is, until we bought books about trucks and cars, and then they couldn't look away. Those bunny and cat books that we had read to The Pea when she was little just couldn't hold their attention! So just like sports, just like work, just like practically everything in life, rule number one in getting kids to love reading is to find a subject they they love.
A few years later, we discovered another important aspect of getting kids to love reading: the format of the book has to jibe with their reading level and interest. Once 3Po and Jammy mastered the How To's of reading, they have began to give their full attention to WHAT they are reading. They passed the stage where they can read to themselves faster than someone can read aloud to them -- but to my dismay, they STILL didn't seem interested in chapter books. They didn't warm up to Junie B Jones or Nate the Great, which may not be so surprising -- but they didn't really enjoy Lego Bakugan or Star Wars or 39 Clues chapter books either. They did love Captain Underpants, Geronimo Stilton and Ricky Ricotta, but their reading level has already surpassed those books. How could I help them?
The common denominator turned out to be illustrations. I should have seen it sooner -- 3Po and Jammy are extremely visually oriented, and they can draw for hours. In fact, they often draw their fantasies on paper instead of acting them out via Lego or Playmobil figures. So I introduced them to the Tintin and Asterix comic books, and they loved them. Now they are working through How to Train Your Dragon and Diary of a Wimpy Kid. They also love reference-format books -- atlases, almanacs, encyclopedias, the Monsterology/Dragonology/Alienology/etc.. series -- again, lots of illustrations. I guess the pictures help stoke their imaginations. Hopefully one of these days or months, they will rely less and less on the illustrations and make up their own pictures in their heads, but for now, I'm ecstatic to finally see them sit and read by themselves, not because their teacher asks them to read every day, not because I won't let them play videogames until they've read something, but because they want to find out what happens in the story. I love seeing them fall in love with books!
If you have a reluctant reader, there's no better time to start helping them fall in love with reading! October is National Book Month, and the National Book Foundation has some great ideas for getting kids and parents involved, as well as reading lists for all ages and stages. Happy reading!