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How to Get a Reluctant Reader to Love Reading

Feb 27, 2008
I've worked with a lot of reluctant readers in my reading teacher role. The challenge of working with a reluctant reader was often twofold: developing enthusiasm for reading and building the reader's confidence. Both challenges required careful attention if they were to be met. I had success through the consideration of a few important points I'd like to share.

I began the challenge of developing a reluctant reader's enthusiasm for reading with selecting the right reading material. I learned that subject matter should come first. I figured out what got a reader excited. I looked at sport, animal, joke and mystery books. I looked for the book that would be the hook that got reluctant eyes to gaze upon a page. Once I got my reader's attention I made good progress in the battle to build enthusiasm.

I also learned that once you have your reader's attention, you want to ensure success. I learned that this is the place where a child's confidence is cultivated. I took care to select books that were the appropriate reading level. I reviewed difficult vocabulary words before we dug in to the first chapter. I provided a good summary of the book's plot and introduced any important concepts. Sometimes this meant giving a short phonics lesson to introduce the "sh" sound or a discussion about early colonial America. I thought about what was needed to get the reader off to a good start in a new book.

Experience showed me that a frustrated or beginning reader needed a lot of support. This meant spending time reading alongside them. I recommend that parents set aside 20 minutes a day to read with a child who is reluctant. I suggest they use this time to give the reader the support and encouragement they need. I believe this time investment has great payoffs. You'll likely be excited by how quickly your reader becomes more interested in books when you take the time to read with them.

I always tell parents, "Don't be afraid to ask for help." Your child's teacher knows which books are at the right reading level for your child. Many schools have a reading specialist, or resource room teachers, who have deep knowledge of the best ways to build reading enthusiasm and reader confidence. Child librarians often know what books are hot for a particular age group, and they are generally familiar with what books are available within a certain subject area. If you are unsure about how to best utilize 20 minutes with a reluctant reader, it is a good idea to find some good resource people to assist you. You'll be surprised by how happy teachers, school and library staff are when they are asked about what can be done to help a child.

I encourage parents to visit an educational supply store to look at reading programs that might guide them. There are great book sets that use phonics, sight word and whole language based approaches. You can select a set that fits the needs of your reader. You'll find books, worksheets and lesson plans that provide straight forward materials that are perfect for your needs. You won't regret the confidence your reader finds when they have the opportunity to read what's just right for them. An educational supplier can help you get your hands on what you need.

My last, and favorite, suggestion for encouraging the reluctant reader has been time tested in my own classroom and my own home: provide a cozy, comfortable spot full of books. It's a fantastic way to encourage a child to open a book. Children love to associate reading with comfort. My kids have a cozy spot. Even my three year old will use it. It has a big basket full of carefully selected books, a saucer chair and a child recliner with a kid sized foot rest. A few fleece blankets are handy for cuddling up in. I play soft music during special reading times. All three of my children love their cozy reading spot. It's my best encouragement for my growing readers.

The challenge of working with a reluctant reader deserves careful attention. Reading is an opportunity to gain knowledge and experience much enjoyment. It's an opportunity that the reluctant reader misses out on. Consider helping a child to love reading. You will have given them a gift that lasts a lifetime. You won't regret the investment.
About the Author
Alisa E. Clark, an educator for over 10 years with a Master's Degree in Reading Education, reviews and consults with companies and schools districts about the latest tools and programs to enhance student learning. Her web site is at http://www.kidrecliners.com.
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