Ten tips for reluctant readers

Published by Lori Pickert on December 9, 2008 at 11:23 PM


Comment by Estea on December 10, 2008 at 03:00 AM


love that!

dude, calvin and hobbes is the gateway to literacy in this house.


Comment by Christina on December 10, 2008 at 03:42 AM

This was wonderful to read. Thanks for the link!

Comment by molly on December 10, 2008 at 04:36 AM

love this link! especially because I have an extremely reluctant reader. And of course I feel all this "watchful eyes of those homeschooling nay-sayers" breathing down my neck because my reluctant reader isn't in chapter books yet.

I think mostly, she just wants to do it on her own time. Like always. I've gone hands-off in my approach the past few weeks. Sometimes we all need a little vacation.


Comment by Lori Pickert on December 10, 2008 at 04:50 AM

e, srsly -- what better motivation to learn to read?

i’m glad you liked it, too, christina!

Comment by Lori Pickert on December 10, 2008 at 04:54 AM

mol, i especially liked the point that a reluctant reader isn’t necessarily a reluctant listener — and isn’t the more important point to love books and reading? what use is it being able to decode phonics if it taints your love of books?

Comment by Candy Cook on December 10, 2008 at 02:35 PM

I also liked this. My son is very resistant to reading age-level books. It seems his imagination and idea of a good read has always been at a higher-level than his literacy. So, the books he enjoys are not books that he can himself read. But, I've found that he really enjoys reading recipes while we cook, instructions for putting things together, text on video games, the cards in games like operation or monopoly, etc. Reading that has a result in his life... a purpose other than simply reading. His pleasure is in the fruits of his reading labor, not in the reading itself. It may change over time, or it may never change. But, it just goes to show that there are ways that anyone will learn and love to read.. and sometimes, it has nothing to do with a book.

Comment by Lori Pickert on December 10, 2008 at 03:23 PM

candy, in my experience, children are drawn naturally toward material that is both far below and far above their current reading ability — what i find flabbergasting is that parents and teachers will censure them for *both*! as in, “that book is too easy for you; choose something else” *and* “that book is too hard for you; choose something else”. gahhh!!! if anything, *that* is the attitude that i find most annoying when it comes to children and learning .. when adults make arbitrary decisions about what they can and can’t do, what they should and shouldn’t be interested in.

it seems obvious to me that reading material that is “beneath their ability” can reinforce their reading skills and *obviously* it builds their love of learning, since they are so often choosing a particular favorite book or type of book.

as to reading material far above, i caught my sons reading shakespeare this summer .. !? i asked my 11yo, “do you understand that?” and he said “it’s really hard to understand .. but i’m going to keep working at it.” now, i read not long ago about how reading lists at high schools and colleges have become dumbed down and as a result, *adults* are unwilling to read “challenging works”. when i heard my 11yo urging my 8yo to try reading shakespeare, i figured i was doing *something* right. ;^)

as to your son’s pleasure being in the actual *reading* part of reading — so, so true! and yet the schools often stomp this part out. they take away the pure pleasure that draws us to reading and what are we left with? nothing compelling.

Comment by Sally on December 10, 2008 at 06:17 PM

Cookbooks are the only things that seem to inspire my daughter. Whatever works.

Comment by Lori Pickert on December 11, 2008 at 12:39 AM

sally, yes, and i know a lot of grown-ups who like to go to bed with a good cookbook, too. ;^)

Comment by Jill (The Well-... on December 11, 2008 at 01:52 AM

Thanks so much for posting this link and sparking a wonderful conversation about growing readers!

Comment by Sarah Jackson on December 11, 2008 at 03:14 AM

Calvin and Hobbes was the first thing my reluctant reader actually wanted to read. He devoured those books night after night. Now the voracious reader has stolen them from his room so she can read them too. He's not happy.

As someone who loves to read, I've had such a hard time getting where my son is coming from in this area. He has dyslexia, so he has always seen reading as work. It took discovering C&H and graphic novels before he found out that reading can be fun too.

Comment by Lori Pickert on December 11, 2008 at 06:00 AM

thank you, jill -- i love the post! :^)

sarah, c&h has got to be the silver bullet for all reluctant readers .. plus, it’s a great vocabulary builder! schools need to invest in c&h books. ;^)

Comment by Kat on December 11, 2008 at 02:00 PM

No reluctant readers in our house, only reluctant times for reading (e.g., when all day long dolls need to be "organidized" into sisters on one sofa and brothers on the other. Don't know if those tips will stand up to that urge...

Comment by Lori Pickert on December 11, 2008 at 02:53 PM

lol, kat. it sounds like the segregated dolls need to be read a story. ;^)

Comment by Nancy on December 17, 2008 at 02:37 AM

Lori, this was a great website! Unfortunately I did everything on the list and more to encourage my reluctant reader. No luck. I have an idea that some boys might need to see dads reading even more than moms. I love the idea that children might need an opportunity to get a little bored to really learn the joy of reading. There's also the idea that boredom leads to creativity too (I'm sure you've heard that before and probably said it yourself!).

Comment by Lori Pickert on December 17, 2008 at 02:31 PM

nancy, you’re right -- i often tout the benefits of boredom! :^D)

children need to learn to handle themselves without constant input, and they need to develop inner resources -- creativity and imagination, the ability to entertain themselves.

it’s true that often the first step toward getting your children to participate in some activity is making a space for that activity -- a space in their day and a space in your home.

a good point about seeing dads reading, too!

although i’m not a book-on-tape person, many people have told me they wooed a reluctant reader that way. we have always read aloud every day, and when the boys got older, we read a chapter of our fiction book, a chapter of a nonfiction book (something science related -- my older son loved bill bryson’s “a short history of nearly everything”), and three poems. :^)

what are your son’s interests? i’m wondering whether that could be the starting point ..

Comment by Christie on December 17, 2008 at 07:50 PM

We do books on tape at our house and have ever since my daughter was about 4. My husband and I sometimes "blame" my daughter's current lack of interest in learning how to read on the fact that her desire for complicated material is so well satisfied by our reading so much to her and by her endless access to books on tape. She's still just 7, so not a "late" reader, but we've been surprised by her total lack of interest in learning to do it herself.

Comment by Lori Pickert on December 17, 2008 at 09:11 PM

christie, what are her interests?

Comment by Christie on December 17, 2008 at 09:38 PM

We're kind of still working on being able to answer that question. For reading material it is pretty much anything at all. For books on tape we stick mostly to classics because I think there is plenty of crummy contemporary writing (funny enough, if she wants to read Junie B Jones, that's fine by me, but I'd rather she didn't listen to that kind of thing).

Outside of maxing out my ability to read aloud, what really puts a sparkle in her eye is mixing things, but only if Mom stays far, far away. She hates directions and suggestions. One of the reasons I'm excited for her start reading is so that she can flip through science project books or cooking books on her own and do things that strike her and it can all be a big secret from me. But at this point, she finds those books limiting, and the ideas in them might as well come from me.

As for reading, she can only read books with about 7-8 words to a page and are about 5 pages long. Of course those books tend to be duller than dirt. Her level seems to be below what may easy reader publishers call level 1. Some of those level 1 readers are ridiculously difficult! We have found that that the Brand New Readers series books end with a little amusing twist that make the whole process palatable, but for the most part she has absolutely no interest in anything that she could read.

I am working on breathing deep and trying to journal and record keep. Baby steps here.

Comment by Lori Pickert on December 17, 2008 at 11:35 PM

keep on with the baby steps! but i was looking for more interests like the mixing .. interests that might have writing or reading extensions that you could just leave for her to look at.

remember that even though her “reading level” might be beginning level, that doesn’t mean she can’t poke through higher-level books and find things she can read or wants read to her. there has to be motivation there, and if the level-1 readers aren’t providing it...

if you can come up with more interests, i will brainstorm with you!

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