Friday, August 26, 2011

So You Have a Reluctant Reader?

I remember the summer I turned six.  It was the summer between kindergarten and first grade. My mom took me to the library where I checked out Ramona Quimby, Age 8.  That was the first chapter book I read on my own, and it began a life-long obsession with reading.  I am rarely without a book (or two or three) on my nightstand. 

I began to teach Gavin to read when he was about four, the age I had been when I learned to read.  I was eager  to have him share my passion for reading, but though he seemed to be learning the concepts, there was never an "a-ha!" moment when it all clicked. I kept waiting for it to happen, and though he progressed through his phonics books, reading was not easy for him, and it was certainly not a pleasure. 

I tried to be patient.  I reasoned that there was no hurry.  Though progress was slow, there was progress.  I reminded myself that each child learns at their own pace and that there is no magic age that one must learn to read! 

Still I tried anything I could think of to encourage his reading skills.  I brought fun books home from the library.  I asked him read to his little brothers.  I had him read alone with me.   He would stumble and mumble and wilt if I asked him to help a selection of our history book.  He still adored books and being read to, but the process of reading was so tedious to him that he fought my many efforts to expand his independent abilities. 

I sensed a breakthrough last summer when we were driving to one of the many midwife appointments at the end of my pregnancy.  As we passed a billboard, he commented on it as we sped by, but when I asked him what it had said, he clammed up.  We kept plugging away at his phonics workbooks, but when we took our winter break last year, the true breakthrough occurred.  Suddenly, he knew how to read!  Four years after his reading journey began-- at eight-years-old-- his "a-ha!" moment happened and he seemed to be able to read well overnight. 

My Tips For Your Reluctant Reader:

Do not be discouraged if your child does not begin to read as early or as quickly as you expect.  Unless you suspect an underlying learning issue, don't sweat it if your child takes his time with reading.  Just as with potty-training, waiting for readiness prevents frustration in everyone.  Though we persevered for many school years, when Gavin was finally ready, he began reading on his own during winter break when I was doing nothing!  He progressed from  reading only very basic sentences to reading short chapter books within a matter of weeks. 

Continue to read, read, read aloud.  Being exposed to and listening to quality literature is wonderful preparation for independent reading.  The summer reading program gestapo said that having Gavin read picture books with and to his younger siblings didn't count, but I still hold that the well-written picture book is more beneficial to life-long reading than a twaddly grade-level book. 

When asking your child to read aloud to you, offer to read every other page (or every other sentence...or every other word).  When faced with a abundance of words, Gavin became overwhelmed, but telling him that I would trade off with him, reading every other page, made the selection seem more friendly and do-able. 

If reading aloud is  intimidating (as it was for Gavin), have your child read a selection to himself and then engage him in casual conversation about what he read.  I don't mean to ask a list of questions, but ask him what he enjoyed or if anything exciting happened.  If he can give you details of the story, you'll know he read well enough to comprehend. 

Allow the privilege of staying up late to read in bed.   We have a new routine in our house.  After we tuck the kids in bed between 8 and 9 o'clock, it is lights out for everyone except Gavin.  He gets to click on a tiny flashlight and read a chapter or two of a book in bed.  We tell him he can read until he gets tired.  He often calls me into his room before he turns out the light to share what he's read that evening.

What are your tips for starting children on the happy path of reading? 


  1. I LOVE the idea of the staying up late to read privilege!

  2. I'm just now stating phonics work with Maygen. Erin started learning to read in K (5 years old) and had quite the difficult time. She would become so upset and often times phonics would bring her to tears. I decided to go half speed with her and just take it SLOW.
    (I mean, who says that you have to learn to read in K???). So we went slow and took special trips to the library and read fun read alouds. Then the next year in 1st I could see the same nervous reaction when it came time to pull out the reading curriculum. We continued to move slowly and by Christmas of last year she had her "A ha" moment and it finally clicked. She was off and running! I just ordered Happy Phonics for Maygen. I've noticed that our current program was just not doing it for her. SHe's much more hands on and LOVES a good game so I ended up ordering Happy PHonics. We'll see how it goes. I remind myself A LOT that my kids all have crawled, walked, talked, potty trained, etc at different times so this will be the same. ALSO, some times with the above mentioned milestones they hit them earlier than "normal" or later and it's the same for reading. God has designed each of us differently and we're all unique so naturally we'll learn differently and at a different pace.

  3. So true, Michelle!! It has taken me awhile to grasp that, too, because I had this idea that my kids needed to learn to read by kindergarten or early 1st grade. I was worried that if they didn't, they were "behind," but I've realized that's not true. Reading is a milestone and it depends so much on readiness. Who rushes their kid to walk? For that matter, who even can push their child to walk before they are ready? It is the same for reading.

    I slowly have realized, too, that in public school, children are on a schedule because it is not practical to have kids all in the same grade with some of them reading and some not. That system works for the public school because it has to, but we aren't under the same pressure so we need to let that pressure off of our kids.


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...