How to help Child Learn to Read

Is your child a reluctant reader? Does he struggle with reading? Here are tips from the author numerous childrens books and magazine stories for creative ways to transform your reluctant reader into a book lover!

“My son won’t touch anything longer than a comic book,” my friend shared. “He’s struggling and says he doesn’t like reading. And he’s only in the first grade! What do I do?”

As a children’s author and educator, I know that you can’t simply give the unenthusiastic or struggling reader a stack of books and say, “Have at it.” Even if the books are excellent.

I’m no expert at parenting, but I’m finally getting the #1 Rule to Great Parenting down: sometimes you gotta be sneaky.

So I recommended my friend try a little stealth and trickery to entice her reluctant reader. How? Here are my tips:

Read to Your Child. I once heard The New York Times Book Review’s children’s book editor Eden Ross Lipson describe reading aloud as beneficial to children because it is both “exclusive” and “physically comforting.” You can’t read to your child while watching television, cooking dinner, or checking e-mail. It requires your undivided attention (and, honestly, how often do we bestow that on our children?) And while we tend to think of reading aloud as reserved for young children, Ross Lipson recommended reading books and poetry to children, “even after they can read.”

Develop a library habit. Lipson also gave this valuable insight: “You don’t need to buy a lot of books.” Instead, she advised, “develop a library habit” and buy only the books that your child checks out time and time again.

While you’re at the library, grab a calendar of events and attend a story hour, author talk, or other program with your child. Meeting a “real live” author or illustrator may be just the ting to spark your child’s interest in reading.

Let your child catch you reading. Children model what they see (the #2 Rule of Great Parenting, I’m told.) Make one night a week “Book Night.” Pop some popcorn, get comfortable and do what families did before the advent of TV. There is something wonderful about sitting in the same room together in comfortable silence, reading. Pre-literate children can leaf through magazines, color, read board books, listen to book tapes, or be read to.

Get help from the experts. There are several excellent resources for parents trying to raise a reader. Eden Ross Lipson’s The New York Times Parent’s Guide to the Best Books for Children (3rd edition) contains reviews of the best books for children of all ages. Laura Backe’s 101 Books for Children Who (Think They) Hate to Read is another great guide. You might also simply work your way down the lists of Caldecott and Newbery Award Winners through the years. These awards given annually by the American Library Association to the best illustrated and written book for children in the US, respectively.

May I recommend

I believe no home library is complete without these classics (many are Newbery Winners):

Louisa May Alcott Little Women, Little Men

Madeleine L’Engle A Wrinkle in Time

C.S. Lewis any in The Chronicles of Narnia series

Katherine Paterson – The Great Gilly Hopkins, The Bridge to Terabithia, Jacob Have I Loved

Elizabeth George Speare – The Bronze Bow

J. R. R. Tolkien The Hobbit, The Lord of the Rings trilogy