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6 Ways To Engage Your Reluctant Reader

Reading in my white tent

Not every child takes to books the same way a fish takes to water. However the situation is not without hope and here are some tips to help your child on a start to becoming friends with reading.

How do you force a reluctant reader to read? The truth is, you can’t. If you try to push reading down a child’s throat he’ll react to it like it’s nasty medicine. Instead, treat books and reading time like rewards, and children will begin to love reading. As a parent, this requires careful planning, from setting up the environment and choosing appropriate books to presenting the books in an inviting way.

Try to inject some fun into the process, and reading with your child will become one of the joys of parenting, and not a trial.

  1. Set the Stage
    A comfortable place to read is essential to making reading anactivity of choice. While reading in bed is lovely, a daytime reading spot is nice to have. As it will be for a child, you can let loose and enter any of your own childhood fantasies here.
  2. Follow your Child’s Heart
    Indulge your child’s interests when choosing books. Does he love dinosaurs? Try the foot-tapping ‘Saturday Night at the Dinosaur Stomp’ (Carol Diggory Shields). Would he like to be a pirate? Read him ‘Tough Boris’ (Mem Fox), a tale of a mean pirate with a soft heart. Does she love the ballet? Well then, it’s ‘Angelina the Ballerina’ (Katherine Holabird) for her. Take note too of your child’s
    learning style and what he responds best to. Almost all little children love movement, and books that allow them to imitate actions will go down well, like ‘Head to Toe’ (Eric Carle), which runs the gamut of gross and fine motor activity, from gorilla thumping and elephant stomping to toe wiggling.
  3. Create a Buzz about Books
    Books have to become objects of desire. Start by giving books as gifts. Also, occasionally give your child some money or a voucher to buy books himself. A regular trip to the bookshop becomes so much more fun when one has a little spending power.
  4. Do Judge a Book by its Cover (and Contents)
    A beautiful book begs to be read. A gorgeous front cover and bindings add immensely to a book’s appeal. Buy, borrow or steal the prettiest editions you can find. Pop-up books and those with moveable parts are also enticing. But do go through the contents of the book too. In this respect, it is a good idea to choose books for your children, and not just let them pick whatever book they like (though of course they can do that sometimes).
  5. A Picture says a Thousand Words
    Pictures are key to a child’s enjoyment of a book, and the best illustrations not only attract children’s attention but also contribute substantively to the story. Illustrations can provide information beyond the text, which children can talk about. This is wonderful for those who are as yet unable to read words. Once children are able to grasp a story from pictures and “read” these pictures, they will develop a sense of autonomy in the process of reading.
  6. Read Aloud to your Child
    This labour of love has no equal and it pays off in more ways than one. It makes reading a shared and enjoyable activity and allows your child to associate reading with pleasure. It also promotes closeness and bonding. It can be tiring on the vocal cords, especially as your child grows older and demands longer books, but it cannot be dispensed with.

You can also try dramatising books and make simple costumes or face masks. It’s amazing what you can get children to read if you give them some props. If you have more than one child or some handy nieces and nephews you can even put on a play! In a nutshell, plan for reading to be fun, and have fun in the planning!

What are your tips to engage your child to read? Share your comments with us below.