Please welcome my guest blogger today, author Robin Newman, who confesses that she has a child who, gasp!, is a reluctant reader! Honestly, I feel like most kids are reluctant readers these days. There is simply too much temptation by way of screens coupled with very busy schedules such that kids don’t have time to be bored. Not like when I was a kid!
Read on to learn how Robin tempts her son into reading.
I am the parent of an eight-year old boy who is a reluctant reader. There, I said it. I never thought this could happen. I’m a writer. A writer of children’s books, no less! I eat, sleep, and dream about books. There are books in every nook and cranny of my home. My husband and I read to and with my son all of the time. Books are an ever-present constant in our lives. Yet, if we weren’t prodding my son to read, would he pick up a book on his own? Probably not. So, how do I get him more interested in reading? This is the question.
I started to think about why he doesn’t like to read. I know he’s not alone. He loves being read to, and he reads well. But when he reads you can tell he feels like a stranger in a strange land.
Explanations for why readers are reluctant seem to run the gamut, absent a medical condition—developmental maturity, anxiety, insecurity about reading generally and in front of peers, slow reader, not interested or bored by the subject matter, etc.
Finding the right book is key. Not just the right reading level, but also a subject matter that’s truly engaging. My son has a tendency to gravitate toward realistic fiction that is way above his reading level. With those books, we read them together. We alternate either by page or chapter. We did this with Wonder by R.J. Palacio and he loved the book. So much so that he was interested in reading 365 Days of Wonder.
Heavily illustrated books, like early readers/chapter books, comic books and graphic novels, are great for beginning readers to develop their confidence. For the pre-k, kindergarten and even first grade crowd, I cannot recommend highly enough Mo Willems’ Elephant & Piggie books. One person can read Gerald, the Elephant’s part, and another person can read Piggie’s part. Here’s an excerpt from There Is a Bird on Your Head:
Piggie: “There is a bird on your head.”
Gerald: “There is a bird on my head?”
Gerald: “Is there a bird on my head now?”
Piggie: “Now there are two birds on your head.”
Source: There Is a Bird on Your Head by Mo Willems (Hyperion Books for Children © 2007 Mo Willems).
Can you see how the repetition and humor are perfect for engaging beginning readers? And on the end papers of the books, there’s a nice surprise. Mo Willems sneaks in the pigeon from his pigeon books.
El Deafo by Cece Bell, Captain Underpants by Dav Pilkey, Bad Kitty by Nick Bruel, Diary of a Wimpy Kid by Jeff Kinney, Stick Dog by Tom Watson, just to name a few, are terrific illustrated books.
For my son, The Black Lagoon Series by Mike Thaler and illustrated by Jared Lee were also a huge hit. They’re both picture books and early chapter books. All of the books are super short, highly illustrated, and filled with tons of puns.
Children learning to read will also ask to read the same book over and over again. Keep in mind that even if this may be excruciatingly boring to a parent, repetition helps children learn vocabulary.
And one thing that’s very easy to forget, READING IS FUN! Reading with your child, even after a long workday, should be something you both look forward to.
Here’s the bottom line: There’s no shortage of books to be enjoyed. Continue reading to and with your children, and at some point your love of reading may rub off on them. Fingers and toes crossed.
Here are a few fun reading activities:
1) A bedtime book treasure/scavenger hunt: Write out clues for the book you’ve selected for bedtime. For example: 1) It’s in your room. 2) On the third shelf of your bookcase. 3) There is a large elephant on the cover with a bird on its head. Can you find the book?
2) Make a paper airplane/boat/train/car etc. and then follow up by reading a book about planes, boats, trains, etc. (In my son’s kindergarten class, everyone was trying to make the fastest and longest flying paper airplanes. So, we read books that taught us how to make awesome aerodynamic paper airplanes. My son also managed to sell a few airplanes to some third graders, but that’s a whole other story. )
3) Celebrate every holiday and special occasion with a book. Birthdays, Groundhog Day, Fruitcake Toss Day, Trivia Day, Bubble Bath Day, Penguin Awareness Day, Squirrel Appreciation Day, or make your own special day.
4) Tea party book club. Even the youngest child can share a book with his or her favorite teddy, lovey, and BFF at a tea party.
5) Reading challenge. See if your child can read x number of books per day, week, month. Have your child track his or her progress, and at the end of the challenge period, your child wins a special prize.
Here are links to a few booklists that may catch the fancy of some reluctant readers:
- Best Books for Reluctant Readers from Goodreads
- Books for Reluctant Readers from Common Sense Media
- Children’s Books for Reluctant Readers on Amazon by teacher and librarian Kate Coombs
- Books for Boys: Reluctant Readers Grades 1 and 2 from Scholastic
- 10 Quick Picks for Reluctant YA Readers from YALSA
About the Author
Raised in New York and Paris, Robin is a graduate of Bryn Mawr College and the City University of New York School of Law. She’s been a practicing attorney and legal editor, but she prefers to write about witches, mice, pigs, and peacocks.
She is the author of The Case of the Missing Carrot Cake, A Wilcox & Griswold Mystery, illustrated by Deborah Zemke (Creston Books, Spring 2015), about two hardboiled mouse detectives working their beat from a shoebox at the back of Farmer Ed’s barn. They are MFIs, Missing Food Investigators, and on their seminal case, they’re on the hunt for Miss Rabbit’s missing carrot cake. (Note: The names of the animals have been changed to protect the good guys.)
The teacher’s guide is available on Robin’s website here.
Here is the book trailer:
For more information about Robin and her forthcoming books, please go to her website.
The Case of the Missing Carrot Cake Book Giveaway
Now here’s the interesting part of the post. If you’d like a chance to win a FREE copy of The Case of the Missing Carrot Cake, A Wilcox & Griswold Mystery, byRobin Newman, illustrated by Deborah Zemke (Creston Books, Spring 2015), please post a comment below.
If you’d like to increase your chances of winning, please also tweet about this post on Twitter, share it on Facebook, and reblog it. For each additional “shout out,” an extra piece of paper will be added to the magic sorting hat with your name on it. Don’t miss out on this once in a lifetime opportunity!
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