Teaching a Child to Read
By Elizabeth Pantley, Author of Perfect Parenting and Kid Cooperation
Situation: My child doesn't like to read, and will only do the bare minimum required to get though his homework. I know that fluency in reading is important to his success in school. How do I encourage him to read more often?
Think about it: You're right to be concerned. Reading is the key to success in all school subjects. With a bit of creativity you can help your child enjoy reading more, and spend more time doing it!
Make it fun: Purchase or borrow a stack of "fun" books. Choose books that will be relatively easy for your child to read, in other words, those that are slightly below his level of reading ability. Choose topics based on your child's interests: baseball, horses, sleepover parties, wild animals, insects, etc. Pick a mystery, a joke book, books about current movie stars or athletes, even comic books. Don't comment about the books; simply leave them lying on the table where your child is sure to see them. To become a great reader, a child needs lots of practice. If you can find the types of books your child will be interested in reading, he'll get the pure practice he needs to make other, more complex, reading easier.
Let him browse the library: Allow your child to get his own library card. Take him to the library and teach him how to use the computers and the wide variety of resources available. Many libraries offer classes to teach kids how to use the resources. Make a routine visit to the library, and make sure you go when you're not rushed, so he can take time to explore.
Pick the right computer games: Take advantage of your child's love of computer games to purchase those that require a lot of reading to play the game. Avoid those that are simply computerized video games.
Encourage bed-time reading: Buy your child a bedside reading lamp, or a tiny book light. Tell him that from now on, he must be in bed by a specific time (say 8:30) and that he can either sleep or read. Most kids will do anything rather than go to sleep, so there's a chance you'll create a new bedtime reading habit.
Have reading material available: Many children will read when they are sitting alone having a snack, or if they have a few minutes of unplanned free time. Put a box of books and magazines near the kitchen table so that reading material is accessible.
Read to your child: Often, once children learn to read independently, parents stop reading to them. This change of routine causes great sadness to a child who has come to love falling asleep as you read. Even a teenager will enjoy being read to if you pick books that pique his interest. Select books together, and make sure they're ones you enjoy as well, so your enjoyment will come through as you read to them.
Check it out: Some children don't like to read because they have poor eyesight or an undetected learning disability. Look for signs that there is a problem. Does your child rub his eyes after reading? Complain of a headache? Become easily frustrated or angry while trying to read? If you notice any of these problems, make an appointment with your pediatrician to have your child's health checked out, or with an optometrist for a complete eye exam.
Excerpted with permission by NTC/Contemporary Publishing Group Inc. from Perfect Parenting, The Dictionary of 1,000 Parenting Tips by Elizabeth Pantley, copyright 1999