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My Child Does Not Enjoy Reading... What do I do?

Updated: Mar 12, 2023

I have many friends who speak fondly of curling up on the couch with a good book and enjoying a Saturday afternoon reading classic novels like Anne of Green Gables. But what if your child does not want to read?

Here are 5 things you can do to make reading more enjoyable for your child:

1. Consider Your Child's Decoding Skills and Comprehension Skills

Have your child read the first sentence or paragraph outload.

How did your child read it?

Were they sounding out each word? If they are, that's a good clue that it's taking a lot of cognitive effort to decode each word. This means they don't have as much brain power left to use for comprehending what they are reading. It is difficult to enjoy something when you can't comprehend it. If your child is struggling to decode, try a decodable book with fewer phonics patterns. They may also need some explicit and systematic instruction before they can enjoy those books and that's okay. Your child does not have to love reading right away... let them learn to read first and then later they can decide if they want to love it.

If they read it and it sounded fluent. Ask your child a few questions about it. Ask your child who was in the story, where the story took place and encourage connections or predictions for what will happen next. This will also encourage your child to slow down and reflect on what they just read. If your child does not understand what they are reading but can read it fluently, it may be helpful to pause after each sentence or paragraph to talk about what they read. Focusing on comprehension over speed will be critical for your child to understand what they are reading so they can one day enjoy it.

2. Consider How You Model Reading

Does your child ever see you read for enjoyment? Are you too busy to read? Is reading given as a consequence or as a task given when you want them to be quiet? Do you read with your child? Have you ever said you don't like reading in front of your child? Is reading viewed as a chore? Has your child overheard conversations about them being described as not being a good reader? Consider the messages that your own attitude and those closest to your child give off towards reading.

How can you model a love for reading in your home?

- Try reading a book for enjoyment, when your child is nearby playing (even for a few moments)

- Compliment your child's effort in reading

- Talk about reading time as a special reward

- Read stories to your child

- NEVER give reading as a punishment

- Play reading games with your child

- Be careful about giving extrinsic rewards for reading (you know your child)

3. Consider Your Child's Knowledge on the Subject

If your child is reading about deep-sea creatures, and they have never seen the ocean or heard about the ocean... they will likely have a difficult time decoding unfamiliar words. Furthermore, when they are successful... they may not know what those words mean. This is particularly relevant in science books... but really any book that use specialized vocabulary.

This aligns with Scarborough's Reading Rope... students need to have language comprehension. If your child does not know the meaning of a significant number of words, or does not have the background knowledge, it will be more difficult to enjoy. When introducing a new book (particularly if it's about a new topic that your child might not know much about), talk about the subject generally before reading the story so your child has some background understanding. This can make the text more enjoyable to read.

4. Consider Your Child's Interests

What interests your child? Do they like funny books? Adventure books? Scary books? Nature books? Simply, if it's a topic they aren't interested in, it will be much harder to enjoy. When your child is interested in the book it is more motivating to read.

That said, remember what I said earlier about their decoding skills. You need to balance these two things. This can be particularly difficult for older students who are experiencing difficulty with reading. The books that match their decoding skills may be considered 'babyish' and 'boring'. Fortunately, there is a growing number of books that are being written to address this very niche concern.

5. Consider that they Might Just Not Like Reading

Now, if you came to this point... and your child still "hates reading", remember that your child is allowed to have likes or dislikes. That said, learning how to read is a foundational competency that will impact every aspect of their life. So, before worrying about if they love it, let's teach them how to read. Then in time, perhaps they will enjoy snuggling up with a good book. But maybe they wont, and that's okay. They will have the skills to sign their employment contract, their mortgage documents for their house and the ability to read the baseball stats online. Functional literacy is something that your child will certainly enjoy.

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