There are children who begin to read immediately after being shown how to sound out words and then there are children who could if they wanted to, but show no interest in reading at all. These we call “reluctant readers.”
Reluctant readers don’t have a learning disability or any medical reason for not reading, they simply don’t want to and put up quite the resistance when someone tries to force them. With these children, it is a better idea to just have fun instead of making reading a chore. Don’t pressure them and offer plenty of encouragement for best results. It often helps if a tutor can work individually with the reluctant reader since it is very difficult to spend extra time with one student in a classroom setting.
You may want to ask your reluctant reader why he doesn’t want to read. You might be surprised at the answer. Every child is different, but some are afraid that their parents won’t read bedtime stories to them anymore, others believe that reading is something boring that is only done at school. If you find yourself with a child who isn’t ready to give up bedtime stories just yet, reassure them that reading on their own will have no effect on this calming ritual.
Tips for Teaching a Reluctant Reader
There are several ways to take the pressure off your young reader and make it easier for him to learn. First, look for simple books on themes he enjoys. For example, if you are working with a little boy who loves fire engines, you might try to find several easy-to-read fire engine books at the local library.
Find a Quiet Place
For these lessons, it is important to find a quiet place to read, away from distractions and other children. The student needs to feel completely at ease and not have to worry that a more literate sibling will come and taunt him while he is reading. The library is a very good place to study since you have hundreds of books at your fingertips.
Start with a simple book of poetry or rhymes. Dr. Seuss has a variety of Beginner Reader books that are quite entertaining and perfect for starting off with, but you can choose any book you think the child would be interested in.
To warm things up, start the session by reading a book of the student’s choice. You read, he just listens and enjoys the story. This is to get him into the mood of enjoying books. If you have a particularly resistant reader, the first couple of sessions might be just reading for fun.
The next step is to get your reluctant reader to read himself. Show him the page and have him read only the words with three letters or less. You read, running your finger along under the sentence until you come to a short word. Pause and let him read it, then continue. This makes reading more interesting for the beginner. It is very difficult for beginning readers to understand a story when they have to keep stopping to sound each word out. They forget the first half of the sentence by the time they reach the end and it is quite frustrating.
As the child improves, you can start having him read every other word, then every other sentence. Finally, every other page will be easy for him to read and then he will be ready to read on his own. Once the student has reached the point of reading on his own, set up a reward system. Give him a sticker for every book he reads. You may have it set up so that after every ten books, he gets a special treat, a video rental or an ice cream. Parents might consider using these credits toward video games or to get out of chores.
The idea is to make reading a positive thing. There are plenty of games to play, as well, that will get even the most reluctant reader interested in reading, such as scavenger hunts. With patience and understanding, your reluctant reader may rapidly become an under-the-covers reader!