By Ruth O’Neil
I have always loved to read. When I was in Kindergarten my mom bought me a set of books for summer reading. Even after I grew too old for those books, I kept them carefully packed away in my closet so that my own children could read and enjoy them later in life. Who knew that I would decide to homeschool my children? While I was growing up, homeschooling was virtually unheard of. Who knew that the company my mother bought those treasured books from would be the same company from whom I would purchase my children’s curriculum?
Those books set the stage for my love of reading. I would visit the library regularly and borrow book after book. I read so much that sometimes I had a difficult time finding a book I hadn’t already devoured.
Reading is such an important part of anyone’s education. Once a child learns how to read, the floodgates of knowledge are opened. Anything he wants to learn more about is possible through reading. Teaching our kids to read is one thing; however, keeping them interested in reading is another story. Getting kids to read on their own outside of class time can sometimes be hard, especially if they struggle with reading.
You may have reading issues such as I have with my son. He can read—and he reads well. The problem is he just doesn’t want to read. Whenever he has to read a chapter in a book, I always ask him to tell me what he read about. Sometimes, he gives me plenty of information that assures me he did, in fact, read. Other times, he gives me a vague one-sentence summary that makes me question whether he read it or not. Sometimes, the description he gives comes from a picture at the beginning of the chapter.
One way I got around this, and helped him to really enjoy reading the book, was to have him read the first chapter out loud. At times, that was enough to get him hooked on the rest of the story so he would truly read it. Other times, we would take turns reading out loud.
Another way to test your kids to see if they actually read is to give them a quiz. Create a five- or ten-question quiz on the book or story and give the child the quiz when they finish reading the book. (One great resource book with quizzes already made up for you is Quizzes for 220 Great Children’s Books by Polly Jeanne Wickstrom.) Make these quizzes something the child looks forward to. Give the quiz orally so it doesn’t seem so much like a test. Give a special reward if your child gets all the answers right. Most importantly, make it fun so that your child will learn to love reading.
Then there was one of my daughters. Dyslexia kept her from reading books thoroughly enough to really comprehend them. Along with some other options, I figured practice would be one of the best ways she could learn to read better. Since her dyslexia was not severe, I bribed (yes, I bribed. Sometimes we have to resort to whatever means necessary!) her to read more by promising to pay her for each book she read. I created a scale based on the number of pages in a book. She could read to herself as long as she could tell me about the story. Money is a great motivator! I did this with all of my kids, and guess who made the most money? Yes, the one who struggled the most.
Then there are the kids that just don’t like to read books. My brother wasn’t a huge book reader when we were kids. He spent his time reading magazines. Although my mom would have liked him to read more books, she allowed him to read his magazines. She would say, “At least he’s reading.” That, after all is what is truly important.
So, how do you get young children who don’t necessarily like to read, reading? Fake them out. Get creative. Make them read without them knowing what they’re doing. Encourage them to read anything and everything.
Here are a few suggestions on getting your kids to read more, even if it isn’t exactly from a book.
- Have them help you at the grocery store. Give them the grocery list and have them tell you what you need. Have them read the packages and labels to make sure they have the right item. For example, spaghetti sauce comes in all sorts of flavors. Have your child read the choices and pick out which one he wants to try.
- Read road signs. Ask your child to help you with directions by looking for city or road signs. A game my kids still like to play is the ABC Game. We go through the alphabet and find words that begin with each letter of the alphabet in order. When a child finds the right letter she shouts out the word in which she found the letter.
- Plan a vacation. Have your kids help you plan your next vacation by getting brochures. Have the kids read these brochures and decide where they want to go and what places they want to visit. Older children can help plan by finding the directions on the map spread out on the dining room table. Have them jot down the names of towns you will drive through and the road names you will need to know.
- Word puzzles are a great way not only to get kids to read, but word searches and crossword puzzles help children read and spell. These games help take the drudgery out of reading. Use spelling lists and make your own word puzzle.
- Recipes are another way to get kids to read. There are lists of ingredients and directions for cooking. Encourage your child to read by buying him a cookbook that is age appropriate. Sit down together and look through it for meal ideas. Children can also be responsible for writing ingredients on the grocery list.
- Have them read to younger children. As your children get a little older, make them feel as if they are helping you by reading to younger children. This can end up being a special time for both the reader and the listener.
- The backs of cereal boxes are often geared towards kids. There can be fun games, interesting facts, and puzzles. My kids actually fight over who gets to read the back of the boxes first.
- Subscribe to age appropriate magazines. There are many magazines to choose from that are appropriate and interesting to kids. You might be surprised at how they look forward to receiving the next issue in the mail.
- Reading restaurant menus is a great reading exercise. Menus are full of new words for children. When you get to the restaurant, hand everyone their own menu, allow them time to look it over, and then tell you what they want to eat. Help with larger words if necessary, but give them the opportunity to figure it out for themselves first.
Reading With All Five Senses
Another way to engage your children with reading is to bring the stories to life using a multi-sensory approach. Marla Schultz’s Literature Kits on SchoolhouseTeachers.com, the curriculum arm of The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine, are a great way to do this! Would your child rather hear about a man on a dangerous sea voyage or crawl into a homemade boat made out of a cardboard box and take the voyage with him? Would he rather hear about foreign shores or smell a native recipe cooking on the stove—and then get to taste it for himself?
Marla’s Literature Kits put all your child’s senses to use experiencing a different story each month. Along the way, your family will explore geography, science, history, art, Bible, language arts, and more! If you aren’t already a member, for a limited time you can try the entire site out for just $1. Membership is only $12.95 a month after that, no matter how many children you have in your family! Check out Marla Schultz’s Literature Kits and more than seventy other courses today [http://schoolhouseteachers.com/sign-up/]!
Ruth O’Neil has been writing for over 20 years. She has published hundreds of articles in numerous publications. She homeschools her three children. She and her husband have been married for 20-plus years. In her spare time she enjoys quilting, crafting, and reading. Visit Ruth at her blog ruths-real-life.blogspot.com or her website ruthoneil.weebly.com .
Copyright 2013, used with permission. All rights reserved by author. Originally appeared in the November-December 2013 issue of The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine, the family education magazine. Read the magazine free at www.TOSMagazine.com or read it on the go and download the free apps at www.TOSApps.com to read the magazine on your mobile devices.