What do you do if you're the parent who just can't get your child interested in reading a book? Figuring out a child's dislike (or even hatred) for reading may take some detective work, but if you're serious about solving this problem, there are definitely things you can do.
Let's take a look at some of the reasons kids hate reading as well as what you can do to solve the problems.
1. Reading makes his eyes hurt.
If your child complains about headaches or eye aches when it's time to read, pay attention. Some kids who are labeled as learning disabled actually suffer from light sensitivity. Fluorescent light and reading on glossy paper can make this condition worse, as well as high-contrast print, such as black letters on white paper. You can do a little experimenting at home to see if your child is more likely to read low-contrast print or under softer lighting. Contact a vision therapist or ophthamologist for help with this condition.
2. They're slow readers.
This isn't as big of a problem for homeschoolers as it can be for children in traditional school classrooms, but those who read more slowly than their peers can get quite frustrated and lose interest in reading. The key to encouraging slow readers is to encourage them to read at their own individual pace. If possible, adapt your literature curriculum to your child's pace, even if it seems like you're not getting through as much material as you'd like. When you take the time to help your child to really understand what he's reading, speed will naturally follow, even if it isn't on a "normal" timeline.
3. They fear reading out loud.
If you have a hesitant reader, avoid asking her to read out loud. Reading out loud definitely has its benefits, but if it's causing too much stress, the benefits will not be worth the frustrations. Instead, discuss what you read so your students can talk about the ideas in their own words.
4. They think they'll be tested on everything they read.
Kids need to learn reading comprehension, and testing is one of the best methods we've come up with for gauging comprehension, but if your kids expect to be tested on every single thing they read, they'll view reading as a chore--a chore with potentially embarrassing consequences. Help your kids to see reading as a lifelong skill that will help them to find new perspectives, make them laugh, learn new skills, and make them think. Be creative in your testing, and ask them to do some reading with no strings attached.
5. They think their opinions will be "wrong."
Let's face it; we live in an age when there are "right" opinions and "wrong" opinions, and since reading and opinions walk hand-in-hand, those who fear their opinions are "wrong" might avoid the whole precarious situation by avoiding ideas in the first place. You can assure your kids that their opinions are valid (even if they're different than others' opinions) by listening carefully to what they say and asking them more about their thoughts. "Interesting idea!" "I hadn't thought of it that way!" "Tell me more about that." These kinds of responses to their opinions will give them the confidence to continue to take risks and trust their own minds.
6. They think they're too far behind to catch up.
When kids are enrolled in school, they are keenly aware of whether they're reading at grade level, above grade level, or below grade level. Those who know they're reading below grade level often feel little motivation to "catch up." This is one area in which homeschool can be a huge benefit. I know a boy who read below grade level for his first four years of elementary school. As soon as he started homeschooling, he started making great strides. He could go at his own pace, and he wasn't preoccupied with comparing his progress to the progress of anyone else. By the time he returned to a classroom in sixth grade, he was reading confidently at grade level. Avoid comparing your children's reading skills. Just keep plugging away and offering new and challenging material as they're ready.
7. They can't remember what they've just read.
Some kids get so absorbed in the phonics and mechanics of reading that they fail to learn how to comprehend what they're reading. You can help kids over this hurdle by explaining that when we read we create mental pictures about what we're reading. With each new sentence our picture gets clearer and more detailed, and sometimes we have to adjust our picture to absorb new and different information. When you start to lose the picture, you start to lose comprehension. Reading aloud to your kids can help them to practice. Read a paragraph or a very short story and ask them to create a picture in their minds, and then ask them to describe their pictures. This can be a fun and relaxing exercise. Your kids probably won't realize that they're actually doing the hard work of learning how to comprehend what they're reading. They'll just start incorporating this skill into their own reading.
8. They haven't yet found books that interest them.
When you homeschool, you have an opportunity to study the topics that are dearest to your kids' hearts, and this is an incredible opportunity. Reluctant readers are more willing to read when the ideas presented are already interesting to them. For example, if your child is interested in engineering and innovation, find a novel that revolves around these interests, like The Creature Department. If your child loves historical fiction, try Number the Stars or Moon Over Manifest. There are books out there that cover just about every topic under the sun. Find the right ones to spark your child's imagination.
Of course, there are other more serious reasons why kids might hate reading. They may be suffering from dyslexia or other conditions that require a more formal approach. Many kids, though, just need a little extra attention and a parent willing to do the detective work to figure it out.
What strategies have you used to help your children to love reading?