When my first born was ready for baby food, I had a mini meltdown. I felt like I had (finally!) figured out feeding him and now my pediatrician was telling me it was already time for solids. The doctor had one simple answer, “Just keep trying.” He said that if my son didn’t show interest in a certain food that I should continue placing it on his tray. Eventually, his tastes may change or he might grow used to the textures and flavors that come with experiencing new foods.
This works for developing a real love of reading in your children, too. But you know what usually doesn’t work? Shoving it down their throats. Forcing children to eat copious amounts of broccoli when they hate it will make them less likely to enjoy broccoli when they grow up, right?
Making your child read only books you select, during the time of day you select, with a timer set will also make them less likely to fall in love with reading.
If you just keep trying the broccoli, with no stress, and in small doses, then they just might start to like it. It’s the same with books. We know first hand. Renee had what so many in education call a “reluctant” reader who has moved past this, and Nicole has a child who falls into this category right now. We prefer the term “developing reader.” As in, these children and their reading habits are a work in progress.
Don’t give up on these works in progress! Like so many masterpieces, they just need some time, some attention, and some love.
My Child Is Not A Reader… Yet. What Should I Do?
- Access to books. It’s huge. There is so much research stating that typically, strong readers come from homes with access to books. The more the better. You don’t have to spend a fortune, but you do need to get the books in their hands. Libraries, yard sales, gifts, book swaps, book orders, and book fairs are all good places.
- Keep the bedtime reading routine going! Your child may or may not always show how much they enjoy your designated reading time together. But…
Over time, the association between your time + books will connect reading with a feeling of happiness. Associating happiness with an activity makes you more likely to do something again and again.
- Allow them to pick out their own books. Whether or not you think they can read them or will even like them, just let them. You can then pick out a stack to read for back up. Remember, when kids feel they are in control of their choices, they will eventually develop their tastes and an understanding of what they can read independently and which books would be better to read with someone else.
- Offer variety. Magazines, graphic novels (think: comic strips turned into book format), nonfiction (fact books) about their favorite topics, newspapers, and digital formats might pique their interest. If you or your child needs some inspiration to find books that appeal to them, these ideas for where to find quality book recommendations will help.
- Offer opportunity. Suggest that babysitters, grandparents, older siblings, and childcare providers cuddle up with a good book, whether they are in your home or out and about.
- Reduce distractions. Easier said than done, I know. Designate a part of your day, even as short as 10 minutes, as screen-free and focused. Whether you are drawing together, reading together, or just talking about your day while having a snack creates sacred time you and your child will cherish.
- Make it fun. Mom of six, blogger, and author Sarah Mackenzie, shares in her book The Read-Aloud Family that she often has a drink or snack when her family begins a read aloud to draw everyone together. So fire up the bag of microwave popcorn, that’s always a sure bet that my kids will come running.
- Let them see YOU read. Let them hear YOU talk about your childhood favorites, what you’re currently reading, what others are reading.
And what if you’ve been doing many of these things already? Maybe you feel disappointed that your child doesn’t choose to read as a hobby the way they choose to play basketball or video games, or they don’t talk about reading in a positive way. Do not despair. As any pediatrician will tell you, just keep trying.
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