How to Raise a Reader

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!

My Son Reading

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:

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.

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  1. says

    I think your recommendations are wonderful, and I agree whole heartedly. BUT, if one is doing all these things to encourage reading in her home and still has a child reluctant to read, I encourage her to at least consider a reading disability. My son struggled for years learning to read, despite being highly intelligent and coming from a home where reading was exemplified and treasured, and where he was read to since early toddlerhood. I tried everything I could think of to make reading click for him. I tried to convince myself that it was just a learning lag and that by surrounding him with books, he'd catch on. Only about 1 1/2 years ago did I finally discover that my son has dyslexia and needed to be taught how to read in a way that is different from most. Now that he is receiving the most effective reading instruction for his brain type (because people with dyslexia have different brain structures than the rest of us), he is finally reading for pleasure.

    I encourage any of your readers who suspect reading problems in their children to visit for more information on the symptoms and solutions for dyslexia. Likewise, you can visit my blog to see what teaching my son to read has looked like.


  2. says

    @Science Geek (aka Kristin), Last year we actually did consider whether Jaden had dyslexia or some other kind of disability (for lack of a better term) that made it difficult for him to read. We didn't have him officially tested, but we did a lot of reading on the subject and came to the conclusion that it was probably not an issue with him.

    But it's definitely a great point! If a child isn't 'getting it', check to see if there's an underlying cause.


  3. says

    It kicks in at different times for different children. I was an avid reader as a child. But my daughter is not like me. Although Sprite sometimes reads in bed (when there are no other options), she never picks up a book otherwise.

    But like you, I keep investing in books, cherishing books, showing an example, and requiring reading. I know that when she's ready, it will click.

    And not all homeschooled children are avid readers. That's okay. I think we should be okay with admitting that and accepting those children.
    .-= Jimmie´s last blog ..One Yuan, Please =-.


  4. says

    Speaking as a teacher I'd like to say they are wonderful recommendations. As a Mum, I'd like to say thank-you for reminding me of the Redwall series because I think my eldest boy might be interested in them too! Well done on your persistence in getting Jaden reading.
    .-= Teresa McNamara´s last blog ..Prep Whispering =-.


  5. says

    Thank you for the suggestions. My kids are beginning readers and my son has not progressed as much as his sister and I think that frustrates him. I like the idea of them having a reading hour or a number of pages to read everyday on their own. I usually read to them everyday,and they see me reading for my own pleasure all the time. These tips were very helpful.
    .-= Rana´s last blog ..Two of a Kind! =-.


  6. says

    Several of my children have loved and devoured the Redwall Series. It's been interesting to see which books will turn each child "on". All of my older kids loved to read but each had a different book that turned them from "I read" to "I am a Reader."
    .-= Susan´s last blog ..Found Object Lessons =-.


  7. says

    @Jimmie, That's where we were with Jaden, thinking that he just wasn't going to a reader. And really, we were okay with that, but still hoping he might some day experience the pleasure of reading for fun.


  8. says

    @Susan, I've noticed the same thing. My oldest daughter will read just about anything now, but her first real love was the American Girl series which she read through the last half of her first grade year.

    My youngest, Joely (7yo) on the other hand, didn't really have one particular book that turned her into a reader. For her I know that peer pressure, and the desire to be like big sis and Mom and Dad really prompted her to love reading, and it wasn't particularly one book. For her it was more of the idea of reading itself.


  9. says

    Great tips! I would add one more: read aloud to your kids. We start our school day with me reading to my kids. Because of this they've learned to get involved and fall in love with a story. I love it when they say, "Keep reading, I have to know what happens!".
    .-= Robin´s last blog ..Second Saturday =-.


  10. Renee Shoemaker says

    I love all those books you mentioned and my 3 boys also love 'The Rangers Apprentice' books, by Flanagan.
    They are not christian, but are very adventurous for boys and he has a fun website too. I have found reading aloud to them to help and finding series of books that they can really enjoy.
    I just found your website and love it.'


  11. says

    I love number 3 and number 5!

    I have eight children and one of them took forever to learn to read; but we kept on keeping on and over the years he improved each year so much that he was surprised himself. One of the main efforts that helped him was to continue writing. Sometimes all he could "do" for school was copywork, but it kept him working and in a very good direction.

    I remember when he was at a 2nd/3rd grade level: I had him read the Kindergarten reader that had taken him so long to read in the previous year. He read the whole book in little sessions in ONE day! So he did the same for the First grade reader we had used. He read it in one week! He was so impressed with his own improvement that he was very ready to get started with higher levels for that year!


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