Some children can be classified as reluctant readers. These
are the children who never read a book even though they have
acquired basic reading skills in school. <
When one of my sons was in third grade, I noticed that he
was not reading at home. I asked the teacher how he was doing in
school with learning to read. She said he was doing very well.
At that time, children were grouped for reading instruction
according to reading levels. My son was probably in the wrong
reading group. The process of learning to read was too difficult
for him and he was not enjoying it. He was not about to continue
this discomfort at home by reading in his free time. I think
this happens to many children.
Children’s self images are involved in knowing how to read.
When they go to the school library, they tend to pick out books
too difficult for them because they feel the other children will
laugh if the books are too easy. They usually do not read these
books because, once they have to sound out a word or have
difficulty, they give up. A vicious circle begins and they get
out of the habit of reading.
Parents who have a young reluctant reader a home can help
that child by going to the library and picking out ten easy-to-
read books from the shelf. These are the books that have lots of
pictures and not many words. Put these books next to your
child’s bed without comment. I did this and within a few days,
my son brought the books to me and said, “I read these.” He was
beginning to perceive of himself as a reader. I took these books
back, and again without comment, picked out ten more and
continued the process. I gradually began to get books that had
more words on the page and he continued to read.
I discovered that reluctant readers do not like stories that
are too long. They want to finish the story in one sitting. My
son worked his way up to more complicated, but still short
stories. The ones he particularly enjoyed were the “Encyclopedia
Brown” books by Sobol. The name of the game was reading. He
became a reader and continues to be one to this day.
My advice to all adults, especially during this Christmas
season, is to buy books for children at least a year lower than
their reading level in school. Also, when you have a child read
to you, choose a book at this level. In that way, he can show
off his new skill and shine in the light of your approval.
Children do not enjoy stumbling over words when they are reading
for pleasure. They also do not like to be embarrassed in front
of any adults but especially their parents by making mistakes.
They are embarrassed enough when this happens in school,
Parents need to model good reading habits. Instead of
having the TV as the centerpiece of the living room, why not have
bookshelves and comfortable reading chairs with generous
lighting? Instead of watching TV all night, why not have an hour
where everybody reads? Or, instead of TV why not have a parent
read a story or poetry to everyone?
Parents who rely on the axiom: “Do as I say, not as I do.”
are rarely successful. I encourage you to begin to model reading
for pleasure and relaxation for your children. When you have
helped to develop in them a love of reading, you will have given
them a resource which will last a lifetime.