The operative word is like, when you’re talking about children and reading. If your child likes to read, your child will almost certainly become a proficient reader. The key is getting your child to read beyond what is required at school: voluntary, independent reading—in other words, reading for fun. Just adding a few extra minutes a day can dramatically increase children’s exposure to words, and by extension, improve their ability to understand what they read. If students increase their reading time to about eleven minutes per day, they would read almost 700,000 words per year (see the article by Anderson, Wilson, and Fielding in Reading Research Quarterly, vol. 23)
And children who read proficiently are most likely to benefit in a host of different ways including improving their
reading, writing, and spelling skills
enjoyment of learning in general
(taken from an American study (Cunningham and Stanovich, “What Reading Does for the Mind,” 1998) and the British government project (“Every Child a Reader,” 2010)
As South African education specialist, Elizabeth Pretorius, says, “Academic success relies on successful learning; successful learning relies on the ability to read.”
Poor Reading Skills Are a Real Problem
The negative consequences of poor reading skills range from serving time in prison to not being able to read a prescription. Here are a few facts:
Fourteen percent of Americans aged sixteen and older read at or below a fifth-grade level; 29 percent only read at eighth-grade level, and among those with lowest literacy rates, 43 percent live in poverty (ProLiteracy organization).
Low literacy adds an estimated $230 billion to the USA’s annual health care costs (ProLiteracy organization).
Forty-six percent of American adults cannot understand the label on their prescription medicine (Journal of the American Medical Association).
The 2009 SAT results revealed that students with four or more years of English and language arts scored over 100 points more in critical reading, writing, and mathematics than students who had one year or less training (The College Board).
Reading frequency declines after age eight, and boys are less likely than girls to read frequently (Scholastic, Kids & Family Reading Report, 2008).
How Do You Encourage Children to Read on Their Own?
You set the example. You provide a home full of books that they can see you reading: “Having reading role-model parents or a large book collection at home has more of an impact on kids’ reading frequency than does household income” (Scholastic, Kids & Family Reading Report, 2008).
And you guide them to books that easy to read, perhaps especially written for reluctant readers.
What Kinds of Books?
Books that are written especially for reluctant readers are short and fast paced; the chapters end in cliff hangers; the plots are uncomplicated; descriptive material is kept to a minimum; and the humor comes in large buckets.
When it comes to humor, my favorite quotation is from What Kids Who Don't Like to Read Like to Read, a 2009 article on the Parents Choice website by Kemie Nix of Children's Literature for Children, Inc. Ms Nix wrote: "The books with the greatest chance of hooking the transitional readers and pulling them out of the pre-book limbo are the humorous ones. And books of humorous episodes are the very best of all! With fifty really funny books, the world could be saved from illiteracy."
Some of my favorite writers for reluctant readers are Dan Gutman (too many titles to mention here), Jeff Kinney (Diary of a Wimpy Kid series), Frank Asch (Cardboard Genius series), Gary Paulsen (Liar, Liar, and Flat Broke), and Louis Sachar (Wayside series), to name but a very few.
Where Do Children Get the Books They Read?
“Parents are a key source of ideas for finding books to read, particularly for young children. But kids—especially younger kids—also rely on the library, school book fairs, and bookstores to find books to read for fun” (Scholastic, Kids & Family Reading Report, 2008).
I’d love to hear what your “reluctant” reader likes to read. I'm away on vacation over the next two weeks. I hope you'll start a conversation here.