How to Motivate Reluctant Readers

How to Motivate Reluctant Readers

how to motivate reluctant readersI keep hearing from moms whose kids don’t like to read or don’t read as much as their mothers hope. Why the concern?

The Problem With Kids Who Don’t Read

The main cause for concern with kids who would rather do anything else but read is that they won’t become proficient readers without enough time with their noses in books. Kids who can’t read well tend to do very poorly in life, no matter how you measure. That’s why literacy is a high priority for schools and it’s a high priority for homeschooling moms, too.

While there are audio and even visual Bibles, the most accessible way to take in God’s Word is to read it. As a Christian homeschooler, I hope that my children will have the reading skills they need to read the Bible and the will to read it, too, especially when they leave home. A lesser concern where reading is concerned is our desire to have adult children who read for pleasure. Reading is a great hobby that we want to pass on!

What if Your Child Would Rather Do Anything But Read?

Assess His Abilities

Most of the time, children who are reluctant to read find it challenging. Does your child have a visual impairment, attention deficits, or a learning disability that makes reading more work? Does she need to learn to read in a different way? My reluctant reader could not learn to read phonetically, though his three older siblings did. Once I let him learn to read using sight words (or a whole language approach), his reading took off. You may need an evaluation of your child, but read the rest of my suggestions first.

Ease Your Expectations

Because so much is riding on reading, we homeschoolers can overreact to any child who isn’t reading at grade level or just doesn’t like to read. I have heard numerous testimonies of children who were late readers but caught up with or exceeded their same age peers. I can tell you numerous similar stories of people who didn’t like to read as children, but are avid readers as adults. My husband, pictured above, is a great example. He seriously read Gone With the Wind just because he wanted to! When we are fearful, we can easily become impatient and even angry about reading. Our children pick up on our attitudes easily and soon you’re in a battle of wills or you’re dealing with a child who gives up because she feels she’s not a good reader.

Keep Reading to Your Child

I didn’t understand for a long time the incredible value of reading to children in terms of building a child’s reading skills. When you read books out loud that are above your child’s reading level, he is building a vocabulary that will enable his reading to take off when he’s developmentally ready. For example, if you read a word like appreciate out loud, even if your child doesn’t see the word, when she comes to it in a book one day, she’ll sound out uh-pr–appreciate. She will recognize the word easily from a few phonics and the context. Don’t have the time to read out loud as much as you’d like? Consider a Disney Interactive Books or Audible subscription so your child can be read to any time.

Make Reading Easy

Capstone Publishers has succeeded in large part because of its focus on creating high-interest, easy-to-read books–especially for boys. No longer are readers who are “behind grade level” saddled with baby books. There are easy-to-read books on nearly every subject. Graphic novels (like comic books in novel form) are particularly appealing to boys. Calvin and Hobbes (not a Capstone title) has gotten many a boy, including mine, to love reading. You can find this book and Capstone titles at a library near you.  I recommend giving your child a book at or below his reading level and telling him, “I’m not sure if this is too difficult for you or not. Let me know, okay, and I’ll find one that’s easier.” What this does is help your child save face if it is in fact too hard, but more likely your child will be thrilled to tell you that it’s soooo easy to read! When your child’s confidence is up, motivating her is easy, too.

Make Reading Rewarding

There are lots of great ways to make reading fun. Here are a few of my favorites:

  • Keep a steady supply of new books coming into your home. I’m married to a book salesman and new boxes of books are a source of Christmas-like excitement. You can create that kind of environment by regularly getting books from the library, Goodwill, or Paperbackswap. Ask any school librarian and she will tell you that she has to keep a steady supply of new books on the shelves to appeal to reluctant readers.
  • Offer a reward. My husband has often offered a shake for a certain number of books read. Lots of reading goes on at those times. While you wouldn’t want your child to expect a treat every time he reads, an occasional reward will help him see reading as the real reward.
  • Connect books to movies or games. Whether you offer to let your child see the movie version or play the related video game of a book before or after reading the book, this multimedia approach has been proven to promote reading.
  • Let your child express his creativity around a book. My kids love to dramatize books for the family. Your child may enjoy doing show and tell about her favorite book, drawing pictures to go with it, or competing in a quiz bowl with a sibling who has read the same book.

Have you been able to motivate a reluctant reader? What worked?

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Jump Start Your Productivity

Jump Start Your Productivity

Imagine driving a reliable car and then one day finding that it won't start. Your reaction? Start shopping for a new car! Ludicrous, isn't it. Yet, that's what so many of us are tempted to do when our reliable system for getting things done breaks down.

For the last month, my engine hasn't been starting. I've let things pile up. I've got no get up and go. Are you in the driveway with me? Let's look at potential reasons our productivity has stalled:

  • We're run down. The most likely reason for a vehicle failing to start is we've left something on (because a door is open) all night. Or so many things are drawing energy from us, that we can't keep up. Not getting enough sleep and giving out emotional energy to lots of different people and situations is a recipe for a run-down battery. I've been way too busy and have dealt with many difficult emotional situations to boot this month.
  • Poor connections. When connections with your battery are loose or corroded, you won't get the fire you need to get started. The connections we need to get things done are the relationship we have with the Lord and with people who love us. If you haven't been spending adequate time with these vital connections, you will shut down. Although I have had time with the Lord, I haven't had enough time with encouraging people lately.
  • Equipment failure. Sometimes I've had a car with a bad starter. And sometimes our bodies aren't functioning optimally. If we are ill, going through hormonal shifts, or are depressed, we will have difficulty feeling motivated. Sometimes equipment failure comes as a result of poor maintenance. Maintenance for our bodies comes in the form of proper nutrition, exercise, and physical exams. I had let my exercise intensity slip and as I felt more sluggish, my nutrition was suffering as well.

Notice that none of these diagnoses demand a new car. In the same way, if you are struggling to accomplish things, the answer is not likely to be a new time management approach. When I get into a slump like I did this past month, I am tempted to surf the web looking for new productivity ideas and apps. Past experience leads me to believe, however, that there is no app or approach to getting things done that is going to put me in gear and keep me there. My current approach to managing my time and tasks is actually quite reliable. And furthermore, even as I have let things go, nothing catastrophic has happened. I lost a few dollars in library fines, but that's it. 

So if a shiny new productivity system isn't the answer, what is? A jump start. Nine times out of ten, when my car won't start, a jump will do the trick. Here's how I have gotten my productivity jump start:

  • Get a jump start right now. Typically, when I go out to my car, I need to get somewhere. Now. The priority is to take action immediately. When we're in a productivity slump, we need to focus on the moment. Avoid thinking about how you'll handle everything tomorrow, next week, or next month. Make a fresh start right now and decide what you will accomplish in what's left of today.
  • Open the hood. It's hard to jump start a car if you don't do that. Yet we often expect things to magically get better when we're in a slump. Open up your calendar, your to-do notebook, or task software. Clear away the cobwebs–the stuff that is already outdated. Likewise, move tasks that don't need to be addressed soon to a different list, context, or date. Often, just looking at your list will motivate you.
  • Recharge. Sometimes cars that need a jump start have batteries that have been run so low that they need time to be plugged in and recharged. I recognized what had been draining me and I did something about it. I made plans to have lunch with a friend who encouraged me. I slept in. I made myself exercise and eat right even when I didn't want to. I took more time for prayer and Bible reading. And I unplugged from people and issues that were draining me.
  • Choose a destination. Having a car that starts isn't much good if you don't know where you're going. In order to make best use of your jump start, choose a short-term goal that will get you up and moving. A friend of mine and I made a list of seven projects we wanted to complete in the next two weeks. Then we started sharing our daily progress with each other via iDoneThis

I'm happy to report that my productivity engine is running smoothly again. I pray that something I've written will be the spark you need to get going, too, without a new system!

I also told them about the gracious hand of my God on me and what the king had said to me. They replied, “Let us start rebuilding.” So they began this good work. (Nehemiah 2:18)

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