By Cheri Fuller
Reading is one of the most vital skills our kids need to learn in their early schooling. After third grade, success and achievement in almost EVERY subject depends on reading skills. What about the young person who really doesn't like to read, refuses to read, or reads so slowly he doesn't enjoy books on his level? DON'T accept a "reading disabled" label for your child!
Instead of negative labels, find out what's the problem (a local university education/reading specialist can do a helpful evaluation), get an action plan and connect the learn-to-read program with your child's learning strengths, whether that's a hands-on, kinesthetic approach that's needed, a visual phonics program, or other. (See my book Talkers, Watchers, & Doers for lots more information on building on learning strengths, both in reading and other subjects).
There are excellent learn-to-read methods for every language difficulty so that no child has to be left behind as a disabled or poor reader.
In addition, here are some great ways to motivate your reluctant reader:
a.. Make it fun. The more fun reading is, the less of a task it seems. So have available beautifully written books with good illustrations at home, a year or two below the child's reading level. (At the school library, often there is pressure to pick out harder books.) Reading is like riding a bike; skill progresses if the child feels comfortable and secure, not under constant pressure to perform. With easier materials, he can increase his reading speed and proficiency. Best of all, since he is out of the stressful situation of the classroom environment, his attitude improves as his reading becomes less grueling and more enjoyable.
b.. Tap into your child's center of learning excitement-which means what he or she is most interested in, fascinated with, or wants to find out about. Whether that is whales, space, science fiction, cowboys, ballet, or sports-get books and magazines on it.
c.. Connect reading with movies. Many times the reluctant reader can be encouraged by having him watch a movie, such as "Black Beauty," before he reads the story in book form. When a group of school children watched programs such as George Washington, Raising the Titanic, or the National Geographic specials, all the books on those subjects quickly disappeared from the school library.
d.. Set realistic time limits for reading. Often the reluctant reader's muscle development doesn't allow for prolonged reading sessions. The typical first-grader has an attention span of about twenty minutes. This gradually increases as the child gets older.
e.. Discover drama in real life!Keep on hand pull-out copies of the Drama in Real Life section of Reader's Digest. With about a sixth-grade reading ability, and a very high interest, even the reluctant reader will be able to pick the story up and become engrossed in it (especially if you read the first part of it aloud together). Titles such as "From the Jaws of Death," "The Starduster's Last Flight," and "Rescue in Mid-air!" hook the interest of young people.
f.. Provide audio books. Having the reluctant reader listen to a taped version of the reading material while following along silently in the book is a terrific way to improve reading and comprehension skills.
g.. Connect with the computer. Computer reading games are great for the math or tech-oriented child who won't read. He or she is challenged by the mechanical aspect of the computer, but gains important reading practice.
Copyright 2005 Cheri Fuller, adapted from School Starts at Home: Simple Ways to Make Learning Fun (NavPress).
(Use only with permission of author.)
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