Does your child dislike reading? Does he consider it torture? Punishment? A menial task he must perform before enjoying his afternoon? Your neighbor's nine-year-old is gobbling up novels like they're nothing more then a page of the Sunday Funnies and your son won't even read the instruction manual for his newest video game.
If this plagues your family, you're not alone. Helping kids develop an interest in reading can be unbelievably difficult. After all, what kid wants to spend time with books when there are so many distractions? Video games, sports, television and movies, etc, can all draw a child's attention away from the all important quest for literacy. If your child is struck with the dreaded readingmakesmewanttocryitis disease, try using these five steps as a cure.
Keep it short
Thick books can be a deal killer. Think back to the first time a teacher required you to read a book that stretched beyond the 300-page mark. You may have enjoyed it... if you actually read it. Heavy books can be as frightening as any movie monster. Small books, on the other hand, are less intimidating. Short chapters, a total book length of 100–150 pages, and a satisfying conclusion will have your child screaming victory. And success breeds more success. If they finish it, they'll want to read more…
Surrender to their wishes
We all want our kids to devour literary classics that will increase their vocabulary and turn them into geniuses. Children, however, don't always share the same desire. Books with tiny print, overly descriptive scenes, and long breaks between dialogue and action… yeah, you can almost hear the Xbox turning on. Give them what they want. Goofy characters, tons of action, and—dare I say it—a smattering of mild potty humor to get them laughing. Once they've developed an interest in reading, then you can teach them the beauty of more advanced literature.
Read it with them
What? You mean I have to read that garbage too? Yeah, you do. And not just as a preview. When they say, "Mom, you've got to read this book!" The best way to encourage them to continue reading on their own is to take them up on the offer. Have your own matching bookmarks and when you hop ahead a chapter or two, tease them a little bit. "Oh, you're not going to believe what happens next!" Sharing in their excitement pays dividends.
Don't penalize with pages
Never use reading as a punishment. I had a child who hated going to the restroom because we would always send them to sit on the toilet for a "time out." Needless to say, we paid the price for our poor choice in judgment. Using a book as a way to punish will only leave a bad association in your child's mind. They'll wonder what they did wrong the next time you suggest they read for a bit.
Many movies are based (at least partially) on books. The next time they preview a movie trailer and get excited about it, give your child an incentive to read the book first. If they finish before the movie is released, then plan a movie night with popcorn, candy, and other treats, and have your child invite a friend. In most cases, they'll appreciate the book more and may even join the ranks of the fans who always say, "Oh, the book is so much better than the movie!" At that point, sit back, kick your feet up, and smile wide with pride. That child of yours has developed a love of literacy that will last a lifetime!