Do you have a boy who doesn’t love to read?
My 7-year-old son Gus doesn’t hate reading…there are just other things he would rather do.
Play football. Play basketball. Play on the iPad. Repeat that trifecta endlessly.
My other children loved snuggling up at bedtime with a stack of books. Gus just wanted to go to sleep. My other children loved reading and switched seamlessly from picture books to chapter books – while Gus would glance at a chapter book and declare it “too hard.”
I offered all sorts of options, but the one that finally took was a book Gus found in his classroom: Miss Daisy Is Crazy! It is the first book in the “My Weird School” series by Dan Gutman. Here is the first paragraph:
“My name is A.J. I like football and video games, and I hate school.” Our teacher, Miss Daisy, was taking attendance. It was the first day of second grade. Miss Daisy told everyone in the class to stand up, say our name, and say something about ourself.”
I think it was that first sentence that hooked Gus. Finally, a story he could relate to!
Gus read the whole series – and then the many follow-up series (My Weird School Daze, My Weirder School, My Weirdest School, My Weirder-est School). The books are silly and funny and there are so many of them!
Do you have a reluctant reader? What works for them? Here are a few things I found that worked well for Gus:
Don’t Worry About Quality
Let your kids read what they enjoy. The key to becoming a reader is enjoying it!
Make Books Available
Make it ridiculously easy for your child to get their hands on a book.
It’s like when you have an early teen – and you want them to start using deodorant. You can explain why they should use deodorant, you can give endless reminders, you can give them subtle hints like rolling down all the car windows on the way home from sports practice. But nothing is more effective than conspicuously placing deodorant where they can’t possibly miss it – in the bathroom, on their dresser, and in their gym bag. If it’s in arms reach, there’s a good chance they might actually use it.
For a reluctant reader, sometimes it’s not enough just to have a book in the house or in their school backpack. Gus is not going to go searching for a book – so I sprinkle them around the house where they will be within arms reach – on his nightstand, in the car, by the couch. I also try and carry one in my purse when I know we will be waiting (for a sibling’s soccer practice to end or a doctor’s appointment).
Find a Cliffhanger
Here’s a little trick: read a book aloud to your child until you get to a really exciting part. Then mark the page, and hand it over to your child and tell them to keep reading it on their own. This also works for audiobooks. Listen to the first part of an audiobook in the car, stop at an exciting moment, and hand the book to your child and let them finish it.
Tie into an Interest
Find a topic your child is already interested in..and then get Googling. Best kids books about sports? Best kids books about art? Best kids books about snakes? Whatever your child is interested in – there is probably a list for it.
Gus was willing to listen to anything funny. Some favorites: the Dory Dory Fantasmagory series (including my favorite one about a reluctant reader!), Knucklehead, and The Terrible Two.
Don’t Make it Homework
Both my kids who are currently in elementary school have reading logs for homework. They are supposed to read 20 minutes a night, write down what they read, along with a 1-2 sentence description. I understand why their teachers assign reading, but nothing kills the fun of reading faster than making it homework. I try never to refer to reading as homework.