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When Kids Hate to Read

By: Anne Svensen
Children who aren't motivated to read can benefit from support at home. Learn what parents can do to make reading a more enjoyable experience for struggling readers in this interview with Dr. Marie Carbo.

Would your child rather take out the trash than pick up a book? Dr. Marie Carbo, founder and executive director of the National Reading Styles Institute, says children's emotions about reading have a huge impact on whether or not they'll become lifelong readers.

In this interview from the Family Education Network, Dr. Carbo answered the following questions about how you can encourage reading at home.

How well are kids reading these days?

Well, too many kids can't read, but there's another growing problem to contend with in this country. We're seeing more and more kids that can read well but don't. I think that in the process of learning how to read, kids get turned off.

There are a lot of distractions out there. Kids aren't living in little log cabins where all there is to do is read. It could be a combination of watching too much television at home and doing a lot of boring worksheets in school.

Once children lose interest in reading, it's hard to get them back.

The motivation to read also tends to decrease as kids get older. Reading is like any other skill. If you don't practice, you won't develop the vocabulary, the skills, and the ease. You won't be able to read fast.

For some high school students, just reading a chapter in a textbook becomes like climbing a mountain, even though they are good readers.

How can parents recognize the difference between an emotionally turned-off reader and a child with a learning problem?

Go to the library and ask the librarian for books that would be appropriate for your child's age. Can your child read that material? Can they understand it and discuss it with you?

Does your child show symptoms that something's wrong? If kids complain of stomachaches, don't like going to school, or don't like reading anything, then they're probably struggling.

If they reverse b's and d's when they copy letters, that could be an indication of a visual problem, especially if it persists through the end of first grade.

How can parents encourage kids to read at home when they're struggling with reading in school?

It all depends on how it's done. Try to make it relaxing and low-key for a short part of the day. Share something of your own. Read aloud some funny or interesting parts of a book that you're reading. Draw your child in with a riddle book for kids, a passage from Sports Illustrated, or a newspaper story.

Show your own enjoyment with it. Make it real short and real light. You don't want to be heavy-handed about it, especially if your child is being turned off at school.

For kids who have lost the motivation to read, the way back is through material that's intensely interesting to them. The likelihood is that your child may almost have to disassociate what he's doing at school with the act of reading something for fun.

Again, ask a librarian to recommend some high-interest, age-appropriate stuff and share some fun parts of it. If your kid likes a movie, bring home the book. Really get down to their interests.

What should parents not do when they're reading with their kids?

I'll never forget this. A woman was sitting behind me on an airplane reading with her child. It was excruciating to listen. Her child was doing more stumbling than reading; the kid was going through torture.

All you need to do in that situation is read the book to your child first, then read it together. Many parents think that the struggle is normal – that it should be hard, that that's how you learn. That is the first thing I want to wipe out of people's minds.

Reading is supposed to feel good to the child. When it does, they'll become readers. We all repeat things that are pleasurable.

How have you made reading fun for kids in your classroom?

The idea that everyone learns and processes information differently really made a lot of sense to me. I began experimenting in my classroom with new reading methods.

I had the kids dictate or write simple stories. I tape recorded them: speaking slowly and put just a few minutes worth on each side of the tape. Then I made little games using the words from their stories. The children matched words and pictures. They played bingo and card games with words. I tried to make reading fun. Then the most amazing thing happened: all the kids started to read.

What encouragement can you give parents of struggling readers?

I want parents to feel hopeful. If your kids are struggling, there are strategies that you can use to help. Of course it's easier if your child's teacher addresses a problem, but parents can approach reading in ways that really can have an impact.

Adapted from: Svensen, A. When Kids Hate To Read. Family Education Network, familyeducation.com. Reprinted with permission.

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Tags: Motivation  |  Parent Tips  |  Struggling Readers

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