Stumped with a Struggling Reader? Take a Step Back. Don’t worry about Reading. Focus on the LOVE of BOOKS
How many of us when faced with struggling readers start searching out the perfect books for them or think if we just could get them to practice reading some more they would finally take off?!? The longer I have worked with my struggling reader the more convinced I have become that all the coaxing, pleading, bribing is not productive. What we need to do is make reading so exciting, so desired by them that they will want to do it on their own. Why do any of us do something really difficult? Why do we put in the hours of effort to learn a new skill or to pay off a huge debt? We do it because the reward is big enough. Not some little side bribe someone might offer us but the bigger goal, the WHY is something we want and desire. If we can get our kids to earnestly desire to read themselves then instead of dragging them kicking and screaming into reading lessons, we become their cheerleader and coach. We can come along side them to encourage and guide.
Great. But HOW do we make the WHY big enough? How do we get our kids excited about reading. I had fallen into the trap of trying to get Mr Rockstar to read everyday at all costs. Thinking that if I had him practice reading each day that eventually he would fall in love with it. It just wasn’t happening.
This is our story of HOW:
You have read we like to take frequent electronic breaks. We go screen free for a week or more at a time. To save my sanity during these breaks, the kids started listening to audio books. At first they were little kid picture books that had a *chime* when it was time to turn the page. But at some point I realized there were all these amazing books I was reading when I was 6, 7, 8 years old that Mr Rockstar was missing. It made me so sad to think of all the worlds he was missing because he struggled with reading. So we started listening to long chapter books on audio.
At first the kids resisted. While we were having a break from electronics one week, I put on the Wizard of Oz (read by Anne Hathaway) for ME to listen to while I cleaned the kitchen (It wasn’t really for me but telling the kids it was for my enjoyment not theirs made them tolerate it). Next thing I knew Mr Rockstar had been sitting for HOURS listening to it. We started listening to more and more audiobooks. The kids started asking for the next book as soon as we would finish one. Then I discovered the joy of reading aloud to my kids. I had read aloud to them when they were little, a desperate attempt to get them to relax and TAKE A NAP or GO TO BED. But I don’t enjoy reading aloud so gradually it stopped. As I saw how much the kids enjoyed the audiobooks, I started reading aloud to them again. It was revolutionary in our household. Now when we are having an off day I can just start reading. I don’t even need to tell the kids, they hear me reading and eventually slow down, cuddle up and listen.
Thanks to the audiobooks, Mr Rockstar started to notice books and stories more. Next thing I knew he was looking at all the hundreds of books in our house. Then HE GOT RID OF ALL HIS TOYS and just filled his room up with his favorite books. He started to beg me to read chapter after chapter out of all the books he was interested in. Of course we never could keep up with how much reading he wanted and not every book is available on audio. About 6 months after we started our audiobook journey he had truly fallen in love with BOOKS and STORIES and the tone of our reading lessons changed. It still wasn’t easy but at least he truly wanted to learn to read. He saw the value. He had a WHY.
So if you are like me post these tips somewhere to keep you going on those days it is hard to stay patient:
1) Read aloud to your kids no matter the age.
Reading aloud gives your kids an emotional/physical/relational bond between books and you. It shows your children you love the stories and they will fall in love with them too along the way.
If you haven’t checked out the read aloud revival blog and podcast you should! It is part of what inspired me to start reading aloud again.
2) Audiobooks are invaluable for a struggling reader
Listening to books above their reading level increases their vocabulary which helps with reading comprehension a TON. Also, the audiobooks open their eyes to the amazing other worldly experience of BOOKS.
3) LIVE with books. Fill your house with books.
I always doubted the research that concluded:
“the difference between being raised in a bookless home compared to being raised in a home with a 500-book library has as great an effect on the level of education a child will attain as having parents who are barely literate (3 years of education) compared to having parents who have a university education (15 or 16 years of education). “
Doesn’t the fact that you own 500 books just mean the parents love books….so if the parents love books but just use the library or have ebooks wouldn’t you get the same outcome of increasing the child’s education level? or do you need the physical books in your house? Mr Rockstar convinced me that actually having the physical books in the house is necessary. He started looking at all the books in the house and seeing books with different pictures, seeing old books that whispered of ancient tales and histories, science books with pictures, biographies of great people, etc. It is just a different feeling to LIVE with books than to go to the library.
These are my 3 tips but what are your tips for helping kids LOVE books?