This article originally appeared on January 30, 2012.
Question: My fourth grade son is required to read for 20 minutes a night and he absolutely hates to do it. His teacher has noticed that he forgets to have a book with him in class when given time to read freely, and he shows real resistance to any direct help with it. His standardized test scores don’t show that he is struggling in reading, and his teacher has determined that he can understand the reading they do in class. What can I do to help him read on his own?
Independent reading is not a passion that all kids are born with. A lot of children learn HOW to read but lose interest in continuing to read for a variety of reasons. First, I would determine some basic facts about your child and then think about how to move forward with his classroom teacher and any other specialists at his school. Here are a few points to think about before taking your next step.
Some students struggle to jump into reading at home because they just don’t care. “Reading is boring!” is a comment you may have heard once or twice. I know that I hear this in the classroom, and I am immediately clued in that perhaps the student isn’t reading a book they care about. This can happen for a few reasons. One, your child may just be less inclined to seek out a book he cares about because there are so many other, more exciting ways to spend his time. Video games, computer websites, and team sports can all prove to be hefty competitors to old-fashioned, two-dimensional books. Two, he may not even know where to start looking. If he doesn’t engage his school librarian or classroom teacher with reading conversations, or if his friends are not really “into” reading, then chances are he is just being a little reticent, maybe even distracted, to jump on the reading wagon.
Hopefully, your son’s teacher will have already performed an assessment to determine his interests in reading genres and types of texts. Even if this has happened at school already, it’s a great exercise to do at home to help your son understand that you, too, are interested in his relationship with reading. Here’s a link to an age-appropriate PDF of a Reading Inventory Survey sponsored by Scholastic.com: http://bit.ly/y9OsSO. You can print this and either fill it out with your son or have him do it by himself. After he is finished, it will serve as a source of talking points about reading that may help him learn more about his own interests. Plus, it will help remind him of his interests so that he can browse books more confidently.
Also, you may consider other benefits of knowing more about your child’s reading interests. This can be an inlet into his changing interests in life. Independent reading does not have to be limited to fictional novels. Non-fiction articles or books are often a good choice, and graphic novels as well as comic strips can still provide your son with exposure to literature without forcing him to take such a traditional approach to it. Remember, any reading is still just that--reading! So be open to supporting his true interests and see what resources are out there for your family.
Look for more information regarding your child’s reading ability next week. We will cover appropriate reading level and reading environment that will promote this interest for your son.