Educationalists, teachers and parents all know that reading is vital to children’s education. Everyone worries about children, who are reluctant readers. Children may be reluctant readers for many reasons. Turning reluctant readers into avid readers takes some careful thought and understanding. Choosing books for a reluctant reader will depend on that individual child and the reason for their reluctance to read. Interesting, exciting and fun books are the key to inspiring and encouraging a reluctant reader. You may have to experiment until you find the right book or genre to inspire that particular child.
There are many types of reluctant reader. A child may have difficulty in learning to read. One little boy found learning to read a very slow and difficult process. He was, however, knowledgeable and passionate about road vehicles of all kinds. A relative sent him some books about a bus, which had interchangeable tops allowing him to do different jobs. The colourful books contained lots of pictures and interesting stories. They fired this little boy’s imagination so much that he wanted to read them. The next day, he took the books to school to show his teacher that he could read. The teacher recommended the series to parents of other boys in the class.
Some children learn to read quickly and are initially able readers, but, as they grow, hobbies, pastimes, and exciting activities take over from reading. In these circumstances, a different type of book to those the child has previously read may elicit a renewed interest in reading. One possible suggestion is the type of book where the child chooses the story’s progression and ending.
Although many parents disapprove of comics, many children find them more approachable and less frightening than books. Editions of real books are now available in a comic or graphic format.
Children are naturally receptive to sounds and words; it is how babies learn to talk. Children enjoy rhyming and strongly rhythmic poetry, which may be useful in encouraging some reluctant readers. T.S. Elliot’s “Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats” Roald Dhal’s children’s poetry, nonsense poetry, children’s limericks, especially if they are humourous or comic may all be useful in reaching reluctant readers, because they take the fear from reading.
Laughter makes everything much easier and less scary and humour makes reading easier. J. a fun-loving child with a well-developed sense of humour, found reading very difficult. A relative gave J a children’s joke book, followed a week later by a book containing children’s humourous short stories. J was so busy concentrating on the fun and humour that he became a confident and able reader without realizing that he was reading.
There is a huge gap between intermediate reading books, those with two sentences per page, simple stories, and plenty of pictures and the more “grown up” children’s books with blocks of close scary print and few pictures. For some children this gap is too wide a gulf. Children’s short children collections may prove less frightening. It is much less daunting to read a story that is only two or three pages long rather than never-ending pages of close print.
It may be that the child is an advanced reader, bored with books suitable to their age. The problem with choosing books for such a child is that books suitable to his or her reading ability may contain topics or subject matter unsuitable for his or her emotional development. A nine-year-old girl had a reading age of 13 ½ years and it was difficult to find suitable books for her. Someone gave her a copy of “Watership Down” and she did not put it down until she had finished the last page. “Duncton Wood”, “Swiss Family Robinson”, Treasure Island and some other nineteenth century classic books will stretch the child and not contain unsuitable content.
Using a little imagination and lateral thinking will help you to inspire and encourage most reluctant readers. Galvanizing reluctant readers requires interesting, fun and exciting books. What constitutes interesting books is different for each child. Discovering why a child is a reluctant reader will help you think of a suitable book or genre to inspire the particular child. A bookshop with a good children’s section will have knowledgeable staff members, who will help you to find the book, which will turn a reluctant reader into an avid and engaged reader.