There is so much advice out there about raising readers and for my first child I mostly ignored it. Not because it wasn’t good advice. It was! It’s just that Kiddo taught himself to read at the tender age of 3 and has since become a voracious reader. So, I didn’t have to do anything.
However, it’s been clear for a long time that I would not have the same experience with my youngest son.
I am, in fact, not enjoying teaching my almost 6 year old how to read. Oh, that is a horrible thing to admit. But I’m just being honest!! A large part of the problem is that he does not like to do things that aren’t easy. Even though I know I have given him a good foundation for literacy by including rhyming games, phonetic awareness, and even poetry into our daily lives, I struggle with my own impatience. I have to work very hard to keep a smile on my face.
For a short time, New Kid seemed amendable to learning how to read. I searched out books that were actually easy and he’s even read a few of them (with help) to me. But recently he has decided he hates sounding out words. If he doesn’t know the word by sight he doesn’t even want to try. Personally, I think it is okay if he doesn’t have reading fluency for another year or so and I have scaled my active teaching way, way back. (Note: New Kid was clearly a typically developing reader. If you ever have concerns you should consult with a literacy specialist.)
That doesn’t mean I’m not finding ways to convince him to learn to read! Here’s what I’m doing to avoid burnout: (Note: book titles are affiliate links.)
Make the home a text rich environment, and not just books. Put up signs. Put up poems. Add magnet words to doors and walls. I highly recommend The Write Start as a resource for more ideas. The book is geared towards raising kids who love to write, but we all know reading and writing go hand in hand.
Reading wordless picture books. New Kid loves to read the same wordless book over and over. This is excellent for learning story structure and looking for layers of meaning. For the past week, we’ve been “reading” Quest repeatedly. See my tips for making the most out of wordless books (I draw heavily on my theatrical training).
Get siblings involved. Kiddo and New Kid do not always see eye to eye, but sometimes when I bring home a book they both can’t wait to read I ask Kiddo to read it aloud to his younger brother. Kiddo is a hero in his brother’s eyes and I’m going to use it to my advantage!
Do not read bad books. Okay. This one is going to get me some hate mail. Plus, it goes against all the advice out there that says to read what your kid wants, even if it is a book about Pokemon or Disney Princesses (I can at least avoid that latter, although there was a Frozen easy reader I had to read before New Kid “discovered” that Frozen was for girls [insert eye roll]). However, I have also read a lot of advice that tells a mama to take care of herself. For me that means limiting the mindless dribble I read. Yes, I still read license characters books, if they are short. The longer ones I call “looking at books”. And you know what, he doesn’t complain. He looks at them for hours. I don’t insult the books, or criticize him for wanting them, but I read (mostly) good books and he can have one on one time with Pikachu, or LEGO Han Solo or Spiderman. When he learns to read, he can read those books as much as he wants, but I must keep my sanity.
When reading aloud, take an extra long pause before a word. I have to be casual about this so my son doesn’t catch on, but if I pause long enough, he gets impatient and I see him looking at the word to figure it out.
Read interactive books. Press Here is a personal favorite and lift the flap books like Flora and the Flamingo are another good choice. These books, along with wordless books, emphasize how reading is not a passive sport.
Have your child read only the easy words. One of my current strategies is to ask him to read a single word that is repeated throughout the book. For example, if the book uses “cat” over and over, I will run my finger along the text as I read, stopping at the word “cat” and then let New Kid read that word. Elephant & Piggie are great for this. In I Broke My Trunk!, for example, I would point to the work, “trunk”.
Model sounding out words. Instead of making him sound out the whole word, which he HATES, I ask him the sound of the last letter. For example: CAT. I say, “ca.. what’s that sound?” while pointing to the “t”. He makes the t sound and I finish sounding out the word.
Listen to audiobooks. Here’s a list of our favorite audiobooks.
Just read aloud. We all know it. Reading aloud begets readers. …. …. Eventually.
I want to end this post, by saying I am not a literacy professional. I know many parents may not agree with my mostly hands-off strategy. To be perfectly honest, I’m pretty sure I’ll change my approach as my son’s attitude changes. We all know kids love to change their opinions daily! Right now my goal is to increase New Kid’s desire to learn to read, without stressing either of us out.
Books to try:
- Easy reader books that are actually easy
- Great easy reader books
- Classic easy reader books
- Summer reading book list for beginning readers
Please tell me, what are you doing with your emerging reader? Are you finding it a challenge to encourage their reading progress?