by Dee White
In most cases, children are reluctant to read because they can’t. For some, there's a diagnosable cause. Others may not have been taught the tools they need to decipher the sounds and blends on the page. Remember, the child who doesn’t like to read, still likes to play.
Some children don’t absorb information by traditional methods so you’ll have to use your imagination to help them. Not all children, especially boys, are happy to just sit and work their way through a book. Some have a more active way of learning and reading.
I've worked with children of all ages struggling to read and found that they're happy to read as long as they're made to feel it's a game not a chore, and you don’t expect them to do something that's going to be too hard and dint their confidence. No matter what their age, you have to work at the level they're at, and build from there.
Make reading fun!
From the earliest age, you can make games with words. Use sticky mailing labels to label things in their room or parts of a special toy like a truck.
Play games like ‘I spy’ to get them used to letter sounds. Encourage them to look at letters on car number plates and count how many start with ‘S’ for example. Junior Scrabble is another great game for kids because they can match the letters they pick up with the letters and pictures on the board. There are so many other ways to engage and interest children, yet still teach them literacy skills at the same time.
Pipe cleaners and plasticine
Some children have trouble reading words on a page, some find it just plain boring. You can spice up the experience by forming words with either plasticine or pipe cleaners. For the child who enjoys active pursuits this is more fun and can be more memorable. Some children will remember a word that they have made out of red plasticine, but not one they've seen printed on paper.
Hop to it!
Another activity for kids who would rather run around than read is hop words. Write each word on an individual card and turn it upside down. The child hops on a card, turns it over and reads the word. Reading this way is more a game than a chore.
Whiteboards work wonders
I discovered very early on with my children that they loved writing on the whiteboard. Consequently, I have found this is a great tool for encouraging literacy. Get them to write down their vowels. Encourage them to try and spell out words on the whiteboard.
Rewards for reading
Don’t try and force children to read words that are beyond them. Take out the hard words and do plasticine word making or use the whiteboard to help them sound it out. If a child is familiar with a difficult word, they'll be more willing to try and read it in a book. Reward effort with a sticker or some other simple token. Always be positive and don’t forget to tell them how well they're doing.
If kids complain about reading by themselves, keep reading to them. We're never too old or young to be read to. Maybe you can take turns with reading aloud. My upper primary school son, an avid reader, still likes cuddling up with Mum and Dad and sharing a good book. Why? Because from the time he was small, we have played word games and reading has always been fun!
Dee White wanted to be an author from the time she was seven-years-old. Her first book for young adults, Letters to Leonardo, took more than ten years to research and write. Dee’s other titles include Hope for Hanna, A Duel of Words and Harry’s Goldfield Adventure.
Dee is passionate about encouraging young readers and writers and her blog is full of career and writing tips for students. She has run many writing workshops for primary and secondary students in various states of Australia with sessions focussing on story ideas, plotting and character development. She is in the process of opening a school for writers aged 8 to adult and more details will be available from her website shortly.