Welcome to our new Summer Series for 2021! In case you missed our intro post outlining all our free resources and summer itinerary coming up these next few weeks, here it is!
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“Every time we read to a child, we’re sending a ‘pleasure’ message to the child’s brain. You could even call it a commercial, conditioning the child to associate books and print with pleasure. There are, however, displeasures associated with reading and school. The learning experience can be tedious or boring, threatening, and often without meaning . . . endless hours of work sheets, intensive phonics instruction, and unconnected test questions. If a child seldom experiences the ‘pleasures’ of reading but increasingly meets its ‘unpleasures,’ then the natural reaction will be withdrawal.”Jim Trelease, The Read-Aloud Handbook
Whether your child likes, loves, lives with, or loathes reading, this list of tips and tricks is for all us parents who desire to help our child’s love for books flourish and grow! Perhaps your child hasn’t fallen in love with reading yet. Or perhaps your child has recently fallen out of love with reading. Or perhaps your child simply prefers other things over reading and does not voluntarily read, or ask to be read to as often as you would like.
Whatever your child’s relationship with books, I hope that this list of ideas will help guide you in your quest to gift your child with a deep, life-long love for the written word!
✨ 21 Love Potions for Reluctant Readers✨
1.) Emphasize LOVE over LEXILE!
Sure, go ahead and sneakily steer your child toward reading material that is on his or her grade level. But if a child just LOVES reading (and re-reading) that one book that just happens to be under grade level/ below their Lexile . . . well, so what? I love reading below my Lexile 😆 ! It’s called comfort reading. If they are happily reading, I say let them be.
2.) Make books front and center at every holiday and occasion!
Display seasonal and holiday reads and celebrate the entire year with beautiful books!!
Check out all our holiday and seasonal book lists here.
3.) Read Aloud! For ALL AGES!
Every stage of childhood should be celebrated with a progression through read-alouds, beginning with those early board books heading all the way through to upper level novels and classics. If you are curious why I believe that reading aloud to our kids is the single most important thing we can do to cultivate in our children a true, life-long love for reading, check out my previous post: Book It!
4.) Start “Book Buddies” for little ones and/or “Read-Aloud Pals” for big kids.
BOOK BUDDIES: For a child under six or seven, we can help them to designate a stuffed animal as their “Book Buddy” to join each and every read-aloud. You could even choose a puppet and use the puppet to “read to” the child. I’ve done this in classroom settings and it’s a true miracle worker. It’s amazing how a kid will care so much more about what comes out of the mouth of, say, a faux fur parrot than she will care what comes out of the mouth of . . . you know . . . her mom. I know it’s a little silly, but it may be worth a shot.
READ-ALOUD PALS: For a child over the age of six or seven who struggles or is embarrassed to read aloud to you, a teacher, or their class, it may be helpful to consider designating a “Read-Aloud Pal.” At the middle school I used to teach at, there was a lovely volunteer group that would bring in service dogs for struggling readers to practice with. I know it may sound absurd . . . reading to a dog! But reading aloud to mom, dad, teacher, or (heaven forbid) an entire class can be incredibly daunting for a struggling reader. What a reticent reader really needs is time practicing reading aloud (and plenty of it) in order to gain the confidence needed to try reading aloud to a real, bona fide human. Gulp!
A few ideas for a “Read-Aloud Pal”:
- a dog or other pet
- a much younger sibling (preferably one who can’t read yet)
- a stuffed animal or collection of stuffed animals
- in the mirror (privately)
- to a make-believe friend
- or for kids too old or too cool for a “pal”, they can try reading aloud to you while you do a task in which you promise not to look their way or make any eye contact whatsoever.
5.) Let your child pick the reading material, even if it’s a comic book!
Read about bugs, or dinosaurs, or that ridiculous troll they can’t get enough of. Let them be in control of the reading and they are sure to champion it. PS. You can slowly introduce different genres/styles to their reading palette, and their tastes will slowly broaden.
6.) Keep book baskets in “captive zones”
By the toilet. At the table. By their bed. In the car.
Take advantage of times when your child is so bored that he or she will stoop to anything to end his or her misery . . . even reading.
Of course, if technology is available at these times, then this will never work.
7.) Don’t rush. And SMILE!
Make sure your child knows how happy you are to sit and read to them. Don’t ever allow yourself to be put out by “having to” read to your child. Or at least never let on! Don’t mention how busy you are, or preface your reading with a statement such as “we are going to have to make this quick!” Relish reading with your child. Pour some tea. Cozy up. Send your child the message that reading to them is both a priority and a privilege.
8.) Lead by example!
“Few children learn to love books by themselves. Someone has to lure them into the wonderful world of the written word; someone has to show them the way.”Orville Prescott, A Father Reads to His Children
Do you yourself truly love to read?
If yes, wonderful! Read in front of your child and use your facial expressions and body language to show your love. But don’t say a word. They’ll catch on to what you’re doing if you go too far.
If no, you don’t really love to read . . . well, this could have a big impact on your child’s attitude toward reading as well. Children learn by example. They pick up our phrases, moods, pet peeves, habits (good and bad). If we don’t read much, chances are they won’t either. If we don’t love it . . . well . . . you see where I’m going. You don’t have to read Charles Dickens. Just choose something that interests you. It’s ok if it’s Harry Potter or The Hunger Games (that’s the trilogy I first fell in love with as an adult)!
9.) Implement our “Book Buck$ System”!
Rewards and bribery are like antibiotics. They work wonders when used only when absolutely needed.
10.) Express your thoughts when reading aloud to your child.
When reading aloud, pause every so often to verbalize your own enjoyment.
- “Oh, I just love Bill Peet’s illustrations!”
- “Look at that little baby piggy!”
- “What a beautiful story.”
- “Uh-oh. Don’t look now . . . Mama is starting to choke up.”
- “Oh my gosh, I’m so nervous to see what happens to her!”
11.) Create a “Cozy Corner”
You can read about how to set up a “Cozy Corner” in our previous post here.
12.) Be happy to read the same book over and over (or at least pretend)!
I know, I know. There are some books I hide every so often just so I don’t lose my mind. So I guess do as I say, not as I sometimes do 😆 !
13.) Listen to audio-dramas together to train your child’s attention span!
I grew up listening to Adventures in Odyssey on all our long road trips, and it was one of the most influential activities for my development as a future reader. Plus, it was just so much fun! For kids who get bored and lose focus fast when you turn on an audiobook, start with good quality audio-dramas to get them used to imaginative listening! It may take weeks, months, or years to really pay off, but I know firsthand that it will definitely set the stage for voracious reading!
14.) Read outside!
Never underestimate the power of a blanket under a shady tree.
15.) Make reading times consistent and familiar.
Think Pavlov’s dog here. When I sit down in front of the fireplace, our kids automatically assume it’s reading time. They have no idea why in the world I would sit down in front of the fireplace if I didn’t have the intention of reading to them 😆 . So, they just run off to grab a book instinctively. Similarly, they have come to expect “Salty Stories” before breakfast, “World Wise” books after homeschool lessons, and story/chapter books before bedtime.
Make it predictable. Make it old and familiar. Make it second nature.
16.) Implement our Movie Ticket System!
Who says movies can’t contribute anything to reading? Listen, I’m all about monitoring screen-time, but it’s amazing the power you can wield with the occasional lure of the Silver Screen.
17.) Be willing to close the book.
If your child isn’t enjoying a book . . . do both of yourselves a favor and move on! It’s ok not to finish a book. Dive into another that captures your child’s attention from the start and you both will be happier for it.
18.) Make movies WORK for you!
Use a movie as an incentive for reading the original story from the book! The options are limitless for all ages! The Lorax, Horton Hears a Who, Stuart Little, Charlotte’s Web. And don’t even get me started on Disney movies! The Jungle Book, 101 Dalmatians, The Basil of Baker Street Series. It could take an entire childhood to read through book-based movie titles!
Alternatively, take one of your child’s favorite movies and use that as the draw to read the book version. For example, if your child loves the movie version of How to Train Your Dragon, perhaps you can entice him or her with offering to read the “original story.” You know, using curiosity to coerce the cat.
Whether you read the book first and then watch the movie, or read the book version of a well-watched favorite, this is a great way to cultivate a love for reading in a child.
19.) Create plenty of *positive associations* with reading.
You know that book “If You Give a Mouse a Cookie”? Well, what would happen if you gave your child a cookie every day at reading time? Eventually, a cookie would taste a lot like a book and a book would taste a lot like a cookie, don’t you think? Of course, cookies aren’t the only way to achieve this. There’s always candy 😆 ! Ok seriously now. Even though sugar works great to sweeten read-alouds, there are other ways to implement pleasant associations with reading.
Other sweet deals for reading time:
- a favorite blanket
- a favorite sitting spot
- close contact/cuddles with mom or dad
- snuggles with a pet
- hot tea, coffee, or cocoa
- lighting a candle
- calm, soothing, soft background music
- outdoor ambiance (even if played from a device)
- a favorite scent (on you or in the diffuser)
20.) Keep them busy while you book it!
Give their fingers something to do while you read aloud.
A few busy ideas:
- knead bread
- prep herbs
- peel potatoes
- chop veggies
- string beads
- lacing cards/embroidery
- wood burn
- leather craft
- hot rocks
21.) Keep a running log of every book read/listened to and heart the favorites.
Track it, and it will grow! Plus it will be a beloved keepsake for years to come.
HAPPY SUMMER READING, BOOK LOVERS!
Click here to check out 📚Our Ultimate Summer Read-Aloud Challenge!🦉
Thank you so much for reading this post and more importantly for reading to your child! I truly believe parents like you are changing the world one page, one story, one child at a time! <3
Love, ~Our Holistic Homeschool~