The girl was a happy first-grader in elementary school with scabbed knees and a love of the woods. She was always outside. She pretended with her sister that they were mermaids, or tigers, or dinosaurs.
They would laugh and explore, curious with everything and hungry for answers.
But when her parents tried to get her to do her reading homework, she would shove the books away, throw a spectacular temper tantrum, and nothing would get done. Does this sound like a kid you know? That kid was me. I hated reading. As I look back, I remember sitting in my elementary school reading class feeling bored. I wanted to be in my favorite place: outside in nature. I was a feral child and happy to be so. My basic reading class was so painfully boring that I would lay my head on my desk and stare at the wood grain until my teacher told me to look up. Or until a more sympathetic one would ask me what was wrong.
I would say I felt sick, and this would allow me to escape on an adventure to the school nurse which typically ended with a lollipop, a few kind words of sympathy, and no reading class, woohoo! Then, the adults caught on. Looking back, I remember my parents being very patient at first. They were concerned that I was sick, but when they found no actual evidence of this, their sympathy became frustration.
After coaxing, arguments, being grounded several times and still no success with my reading class, my father resorted to a final act of desperation. He picked me up, trapped me in a pillow fort of couch cushions we had just made, and would not let me leave. He then opened a book and began to read out loud. The book he chose was Jack London's The Call of the Wild.
When I realized what he was doing, I growled and snarled. I clawed at the pillow fort walls trying to escape. I felt betrayed and angry that I couldn't leave. (Note: Child psychologists may frown upon the idea of trapping your children in a pillow fort against their will). And then, after I had calmed down, with no choice left, I began to listen to my father's voice as he read.
As the story unfolded, I became entranced. And there are a few things you can do to get your kid entranced with reading too.
STEP 1: INVESTIGATE WHY
Find out why your kid doesn't like to read. Identify the barriers. Are they hungry? Bored? Sick? Talk with their teachers and your child too.
STEP 2: TAP INTO YOUR
In your own experience, think about books you loved as a kid. Your children might like them too. Have fun with it!
STEP 3: WHAT DOES YOUR KID LOVE?
Think about what your kid loves and show them they can learn more about it through reading. The key is to build a positive connection. Make it fun, make it something your kid is motivated to do. Be interested and attentive to what they have to say. Help them find out more about it.
STEP 4: GET OUTSIDE HELP
Reach out to the experts who have greater experience in dealing with the situation that you are in. Your local Librarians are often a treasure trove of information.
STEP 5: MODEL WHAT YOU WANT TO SEE
Model reading to your children by reading more around them. Kids will often get curious about why your attention is so focused on something as mysterious as the written word.
STEP 6: BE PATIENT
Trying to get your kid to learn the letters on the page is like trying to learn about all the fish in the ocean. It can be overwhelming and takes patience, persistence, and time.
Remember that small steps can lead to big things. Helping your kid connect with the magic of words takes time and persistence, but it can also be fun. Encourage them to be involved and to be curious. Good luck, and happy reading!
Still stumped on how to get your kid reading? Try these resources here.