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 repetition and humor are perfect for engaging beginning readers? And on the endpapers 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 was 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 mice 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:
The Case of the Missing Carrot Cake from Robin Newman on Vimeo.
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, Robin 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!
May the best blog reader win! Here’s the Rafflcopter to win. You know the drill!
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37 thoughts on “Say It Ain’t So: My Child Is a Reluctant Reader”
Thanks for this list and article! My own 8 year old son is an advanced reader but I have to push him to read, so I’ll be picking up some of this books for him (except the Wimpy Kid, I have my reservations about those books). We read together too: Matilda, James and the Giant Peach, Alice in Wonderland and next on my list is A Wrinkle in Time. We also like to do our own reading challenges to keep things fresh. Hopefully he’ll grown up to love those moments we spent reading together.
What wonderful books you have picked for your son! My 10-year-old son loved The Candymakers by Wendy Mass which is as close to Charlie and the Chocolate Factory as you can get. I also have 20 Chapter Books for a Young Boy which I hope your son might like: http://www.pragmaticmom.com/2013/11/20-gentle-chapter-books-young-boy/
Mariana, Those are great books! We did Matilda together last year and I tried to get him interested in James and the Giant Peach, but no sale on that one. Books that we recently read that my son loved were Sisters, Smile, and Drama by Raina Telgemeir. I was VERY surprised that he was interested in these books, but peer pressure is a beautiful thing and a number of his classmates were reading the books. We also read the first few books in The Boxcar Children’s series, and are currently reading The Julian Chapter by R.J. Palacio. I completely agree with Mia’s point above. It’s very hard competing with electronic media and boredom is not a concept that many kids are accustomed to these day. Good luck!
My girls LOVE Raina Telegemeir … I never thought to try on my son but now I will. My kids LOVE RJ Palacio and I just read all the ebooks. The Julian chapter blew me away! Our kids like the same books! 🙂 Try The Candymakers by Wendy Mass. My son’s friends recommended it and he would not stop reading it!
Nice post, Robin! As a voracious reader myself, it’s tough if you have a reluctant reader. I think that it may be easy to pressure your child too much. When our oldest was learning, we did much of what Robin suggests: reading together (which we still do!), read the same books over and over (and over!); participate in the library read-a-thons, etc. Luckily my kiddos are not exposed to too much electronic media so that’s not so much of a competition for us. Our son loved reading Ivy & Bean, June B. Jones, Magic Treehouse, Captain Underpants, Alvin Lost, (and still does), along with tougher books (Harry Potter series, Norse fairy tales).
Thanks for those suggestions! I hadn’t thought of Ivy & Bean and Alvin Lost, but maybe . . . .
My middle child was a huge fan of Ivy and Bean. Great series!
Hi Decatur Mama of 2,
I love your idea of reading together and research shows that reading aloud to a child at any age has the same benefits (or more) of them reading independently. It’s a nice way to bond too!
My son is a reluctant reader. He loves me to read to him though. He loves a good mystery so this book sounds like it would be great to read together.
I still read to my 4th grade son every night. It’s our bonding time. Thanks for entering!
Bonnie, Fingers and toes crossed your son enjoys the book.
I’m sure he will! 🙂
Great post and great suggestions. My son started out as a wonderful reader, but now at almost 8, he would rather spend time on his tablet, even though we try to limit his time on it. My son is drawn to anything funny, so anything by Mo Willems was an absolute favorite…and still is! Right now, he is loving the Galaxy Zack books, Big Nate and Geronimo Stilton. I will definitely be checking out the reluctant reader links as well as trying some of the activities. When he was smaller, we would sometimes try to do a craft, or art project with some of the books he read. Now, he likes to make his own “graphic novels” using the characters of some books, especially Big Nate! Looking forward to sharing The Case of the Missing Carrot Cake with him!
Maria, Those are great recommendations. Thank you! I love that your son makes his own graphic novels. Maybe he’ll become a writer and illustrator after all. 🙂 Detective Wilcox and Captain Griswold hope he enjoys The Case of the Missing Carrot Cake.
Don’t you just love it when your child starts creating their own graphic novels!! It’s the best! Thanks for entering!
My son’s fifth grade class read JG’s by M.D. Marrone…they really liked it. They also really liked Wonder.
Maria, I’m not familiar with M.D. Marrone. I’ll have to check it out. Thank you!
I’ll have to read JG’s. That’s new to me. Thanks for your great suggestion!
Elephant and Piggie have been a HUGE early reading hit in our house! Emma got hooked on chapter books with the Ramona series. Johnny isn’t hooked quite yet, but he loves the Fly Guy books 🙂
Maryanne, I am a HUGE fan of the Fly Guy books for beginning readers. I should have mentioned them in the article, just forgot. Thank you!!!
I love the Fly Guy too but somehow it missed the window when my kids read that level of books. But I read them myself and love them.
I love Elephant and Piggie. It’s the series that I pretty much only read with my youngest because that was when I discovered them. We still snort laugh when we read them.
I started a graphic novel basket this year, and most of my reluctant readers have read many of them. The Bone series is one of the favorites. They also love Diary of a Wimpy Kid books. This year I have also relaxed rules about reading levels. Many students, especially the boys in my class, are interested in reading books that are above their level, but they will try to understand them because they are so interesting to them.
Jennifer, I love the idea of the graphic novel basket. We went through all of the Diary of a Wimpy Kid books and tried a few in the Bone series. I wish the print in Bone were a touch bigger! I had a very hard time reading the text. Fortunately, my son has better vision than I do.
My son read one or two Bone during his intense graphic novel phase but didn’t stick with that. He and my husband though are hooked on the Amulet series.
Hi Jennifer O,
I love your graphic novel basket idea!! They really work to get kids reading I’ve noticed too with my kids. Smile by Raina Telegemeir was a hit with my girls.
These are excellent suggestions.. i really think Graphic novels are great for reluctant readers. Cece Bell’s books are exactly the kind we need for deep thinking and reading. I love her book El Deafo.
Robin, your book Case of the missing Carrot Cake is perfect for a mystery book club or book report at school. I am definitely recommending this one to our teachers 🙂
Thanks for hosting the giveaway Mia!
My son in 4th grade loved El Deafo too. I think kids in general love semi-autobiographical graphic novels which surprises me (like those by Raina Telegemeir).
My boys are older now but Artemis Fowl worked very well for us. My younger children love Percy Jackson.
Nancy, Great ideas! I forgot about Artemis Fowl! Thank you!
I’m trying Artimis Fowl now for the first time with my son. We saw Eoin Colfer at the Mega Awesome Author event and he’s hilarious but I could not convince my son to give it a go then. My son is obsessed with Rick Riordan though. We read Norse Mythology to get ready for Magnus Chase. Here’s the post on Colfer in case your son would enjoy “meeting him”:http://www.pragmaticmom.com/2014/05/meet-eoin-colfer-with-me/
Honestly, if I could magically make authors appear at my dinner table, Eoin Colfer would be high on the list. He’s so charming and FUNNY!!! He could be a stand up comedian!
Reshama, Thank you for recommending my book. It’s very much appreciated. There are tons of detective activities that you can do in conjunction with the book as well, i.e., fingerprinting and taking mug shots with hats, glasses and mustaches (I do those at my book signings). The teacher’s guide on my website also has lots of fun ideas! (I tried linking the guide to the comments, but couldn’t do it.) Thanks again!
I’ll link it here for you: http://www.robinnewmanbooks.com/TeachersGuideCarrotCake.pdf
This is the Teacher’s Guide.
Wonder was such a “wonderful” book! Such a great list, thanks for sharing with us at Mommy Monday!
Mrs. AOK (I love your name!)
Thank you! Happy Mother’s Day! 🙂
Thanks so mych Mrs. AOK! I’m so glad you liked it!