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Encouraging Reluctant Readers

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By Lisette BC Abbott

Reluctant readers are children who can read, sometimes below "grade" level, but who nonetheless choose not to read. In this day of "the cult of celebrity," competing television shows, movies, and video games wildly proliferate. As a result, many children are not recognizing the joys of reading and instead see only what they perceive as the boredom of reading. Perhaps you've heard a variation of "I can just watch the movie instead of reading the book"? And, if you love reading, a statement like that can make you cringe.

So what can we homeschooling parents do? I've stumbled upon some strategies that are working within our own homeschool. Try them, tweak them, and I wish you success in turning your reluctant reader into an eager reader!

Consider making a booklist

Yes, book lists can seem "schoolish." However, if done with the entire family's input, such lists can become the opposite.

When making a booklist, you'll want to keep in mind your children's interests because you'll be tailoring the reading list to these interests. If you child is interested in pirates, for example, consider such books as Kidnapped! by Robert Louis Stevenson or the many quality non-fiction books about pirates that exist. Because pirates traveled the seas, also consider books that feature other forms of travel, such as books about explorers. You can also consider books that feature the ocean as a character, and the time frame of pirates, perhaps focusing on the 1700s of Kidnapped! You've now broadened your scope to books that feature pirates, explorers, and historical fiction. After more observation of your children's tastes, you can modify this broadened scope as needed.

The point is you want the books you select to appeal to your children. By appealing to your children's tastes, you'll be providing excellent room for them to compare or contrast their own experiences and the way they see the world. You'll also probably want to make sure these books fit within your own worldview. Thus, not only will you be including books that appeal to your children's tastes, you'll also be including books that reinforce or complement your family values.

Another point to consider when putting together your booklist is to include books that have a varying range of reading levels. However, don't include books that are too easy or too difficult for your children's levels. If you do, you run the risk of alienating your children from books because they'll come to regard books as either boring or impossible. Although some books have suggested reading levels, I suggest you take these with a grain of salt. These suggested reading levels are primarily for public school use as a way of categorizing large groups of classroom readers. As homeschoolers, we don't need that. Nevertheless, these suggested reading levels can help you narrow books down to a more manageable level.

Finally, in your reading list, you may wish to provide a meaningful synopsis for each book, focusing on the part of the book that appeals to your children's interests.

Give your children the space and time to read

It's important for children to begin taking "ownership" of their reading. Thus, by being flexible and allowing your children to choose the time and place to read, your children will begin to enjoy their reading more. For example, my son is beginning to retreat to his room more often, with his room becoming his main reading sanctuary. Once at a store, he chose a plastic crate to place next to his bed and that now houses books he's reading. I've discovered that he's frequently turning to his room and a good book for entertainment. By encouraging my son's creation of his reading sanctuary, I've offered him the tools to genuinely enjoy reading.

Let your children see you read-often

This cannot be stressed enough. If your children see you genuinely enjoying reading all kinds of books, then your children will regard reading as a pleasurable activity and something that's expected. Unfortunately, we're living in a society where reading is regarded as irrelevant. Instead there's a proliferation of television shows, movies, video games and even instant celebrities to serve as entertainment, and all this vacuous entertainment prevents us from critical thinking. However, if we show our children that we can be entertained by, learn from, agree and even disagree with books, then our children will see books as wonderful and will be more ready to reach for a book instead of the remote control.

Copyright ©  2004  Eclectic Homeschool Association

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