We cannot say we truly know how to raise a reader as over the years we feared we had tried everything and it did not seem to be working.
I love to read. My husband loves to read. My two daughters love to read.
But my son has been staunchly opposed to reading since he first learned how in Kindergarten. He'll read if he is required to for school, but he has never really sat down to read a real book just for the pure pleasure of it.
Over the years we've done everything we could think of to turn him into a reader, but without success — until now! Look!
This is what Jaden has been doing for the last couple of weeks in his spare time — reading! And he's actually admitted, out loud, that he loves reading. WooHoo! I never thought I'd see the day.
Now I know we can't take all the credit for turning him into a reader, but I can share with you what we have done over the years, and what Jaden has said helped him to come to the point where he loves to read.
1. Show your children that you value reading by being a reader yourself.
If you want your kids to love to read, then show them that you love to read too. In your spare time, grab a book, then sit down and read. Jaden has been surrounded by his sisters and parents reading almost all the time, and while he denies that this had any impact on him turning into a reader, I don't entirely believe him. Positive peer pressure really does work.
2. Have a variety of good books available to your children all the time.
The library is a wonderful resource for books, but nothing beats having your own collection of books on your own bookshelves, readily available to read at a moment's notice. Not only is there no constraint to read the books within a specific window of time, there aren't any overdue fees either. And it doesn't have to cost you a fortune to fill your shelves with qualtiy books. You can find excellent books quite cheaply by shopping at garage sales, thrift stores, and used book stores.
The book series that pushed Jaden 'over the edge' and has been the main cause of his miraculous transformation into a recreational reader is the Redwall series by Brian Jacques. Several books in the series have been sitting on his shelf for years, just waiting to be read…and they finally have been read!
Some of the other books that Jaden has read in the past (he read them when they were assigned) but that he admits to enjoying at the time are the following:
- The Seven Sleepers Series by Gilbert Morris
- The Cooper Kids Adventure Series by Frank Peretti
- The Kingdom Series by Chuck Black
3. Require your children to read a certain amount of time every day.
I schedule into my children's daily school routine a minimum amount of independent reading. For my older kids, that is usually one hour of reading a book of their choice, and for Joely, in 2nd grade, it's generally a certain number of pages.
Jaden has pointed to this as being a major factor in turning him into a reader. He told me that since he had to read so much each day, it helped him get into the story more until he eventually got hooked on it. If he had been required to read only a short amount each day, or every other day, this may not have happened.
So have your kids read for an extended amount of time on a daily basis.
4. Provide an electronic dictionary for your children to use while they read.
Knowing how to look up words in a 'real' dictionary is important, but when your children stumble across words in their reading that they don't understand, they really need immediate gratification. By having an electronic dictionary handy, they can look up the definition quickly and move on with their reading.
Jaden has used the electronic dictionary frequently to look up unknown words, and that has kept him from getting frustrated when he encounters unfamiliar words while he reads.
5. Encourage your children to have an open mind when they read.
This was the biggest hurdle Jaden had to get over. He has claimed repeatedly that he doesn't enjoy reading because he can't use his imagination about what's going on in the story just by reading the words. This baffled us for a long time, but then it became painfully obviously that this lack-of-imagination problem was rooted in his basic attitude about reading.
He opened each and every book he read with a closed mind. He was determined at the outset that he wasn't going to like it — and therefore he didn't. His imagination was stifle before he even read the first word.
When I questioned Jaden today about why he's become a reader, the last thing he said to me was "I'm reading with an open mind, so now I can use my imagination." You almost had to pick me up off the floor when he said that! He was listening to us all those years — and he finally got it!
So don't discount the benefit of telling your children to approach each and every book with a good attitude and with a mind open to the possibility that they might enjoy the book. Tell them that they don't have to like the book — they have complete permission not to like it — but they at least have to give it a chance.
You never know when your child might take your advice and be ushered into that glorious land of imagination.