I am about to confess one of my deepest, darkest secret. This is a painful admission for a children's book author to make, but I feel I must come clean.
My son hates to read.
There, I said it. Tristan, the 7 year-old apple of my eye, is what Chris and I euphamistically refer to as a "reluctant reader". Both of us were in denial of this fact for a long time, especially because big sister Kara was born with her nose stuck in a book. Chris and I are both voracious readers, educators, and I write children's stories for goodness sake. Yet, here we are the parents of a boy who has become a master at negotiating reductions in his required reading time.
The first clue that we had a problem was that Tristan never picked up a book unless I put it in his hands and told him to read it. When he finally would because I did not give him a choice, he insisted that I sit next to him while he read aloud. He hated reading on his own. Then he would haggle with me to get his assigned reading time reduced. "How about I read for just 10 minutes instead of 15?" or "Mom, please, just 5 pages instead of 10?".
AAAAHHHHH! While Kara was taking books to bed with her and reading until the wee hours of the night, Tristan was haggling down to the last paragraph.
As with all problems, the first step towards coming up with a solution was admitting that we had a problem. Once Chris and I waded out of the river of denial, we brainstormed ideas to get Tristan to read more. The problem became a bigger issue when we decided to go on a round the world trip in which we would be home schooling the kids. Their curriculum will include a lot of reading on their own. Our strategy was the use the shotgun approach and toss all kinds of books at him to see what he liked. We made two important discoveries with this scientific methodology.
The first discovery we made was that Tristan does not like to read for the sake of reading. He needs to learn something or be wildly entertained by the story. The second thing we learned was that our son's interests (violence, astronomy, math, adventure, fantasy) are topics that are written at a higher level than his current reading ability.
After figuring these two issues out, we came up with a beautiful solution for our "reluctant" reader: Comic books!
Tristan loves to read comic books. He reads them on his own, and he does not insist that I sit next to him while he reads because he can figure out a lot of the unknown words from the context provided by the graphics. If he gets really stuck, he spells out the word for me and I tell him what it is.
Kara loves to read classics like Flowers for Algernon and Because of Winn-Dixie, but she can also curl up with comic books......and The Dork Diaries. I am so grateful to Comixology because we can download comic books to the children's tablets, which is such a gift to us because we don't live in the USA and our nomadic lifestyle demands that we pack lightly.
I know many of Tiger parents out there will probably look down on us because we let our kids read comic books. All I can tell you is.... 😝
Comic books are an excellent strategy to get your "reluctant reader" to read and love it. They are well-written, spark imagination, and most of them are conducive to the child expanding their vocabulary.
What Chris and I learned in the process of finding books that Tristan would read is that we need to get over ourselves. If our child is not learning from the way we teach, we will change the way we teach. As parents, we need to get off our high horse and modify our teaching strategies to meet our goals. At Tristan's age, the main goal of reading is to learn comprehension, grammar, and vocabulary. Any written material accomplishes those goals whether you are reading a Newberry Honor book or Judy Moody. In addition to comic books, Tristan also reads Captain Underpants, the "Stink" series, and interactive e-books on his iPAD. Once again I say this to you Type A professional Tiger parents... 😝
What strategies have you used to get your reluctant reader to read? Please share them in the comments section because we have run out of ideas!