6 Powerful Ways to Motivate Your Struggling Reader

How Important is Motivation for Struggling Readers?

You have purchased the special phonics program to teach reading to your grade school son or daughter. There are complementary sets of books to read for practice. You are working on how to improve reading comprehension. Every day your son or daughter participates in the lesson. But a problem remains. They seldom pick up a book on their own. Your mission is to help them realize that reading is pleasurable.

You see progress in your child, but you would like them to enjoy reading. How do you help your child get better at reading? You have a sinking feeling in your heart that without motivation for reading, they will continue to lag behind. 

Here are the Stats About Difficulty Reading

It is disheartening for any mother who understands the importance of reading to see her child not enjoy the activity. Unfortunately, the statistics about reluctant readers firmly illuminate the expansiveness of the problem.

The US National Center for Educational Statistics found that “half (53%) of all 9-year olds, a quarter (27%) of all 13 year olds and one in five or (19%) of 17-year olds read for fun each day.” This lack of enthusiasm for expanding their skills, prevents them from gaining proficiency. “The Nation’s Report Card says only 36 percent of eighth graders read at proficiency level.” The statistics are clear. Reluctant readers fall behind their peers. While some of the facts may include kids with learning disabilities, these numbers are much bigger than just the number of kids with disabilities. 

6 Powerful Ways to Motivate your Reluctant Reader

1)   Work from your Child’s Strengths

Take a careful look at your child to determine what would interest them. Most reading lessons are built on specific skills, and the stories or information is a secondary consideration. Try different types of books than the prescribed program that lies within your child’s interests.

These suggestions below may broaden your perspective. Your child may not read every word in the book, but if you can get them engaged in reading for pleasure, you have attained your goal.

How-to Books: You can continue with the prescribed program to build skills but supplement the program with books that interest your child. If you have a budding chef, find some easy cookbooks and try out some recipes together. Other “how to” favorites are “how-to” build something such as a birdhouse, “how-to” fold paper to create an airplane, or “how-to” knit a scarf. Crafts are very popular with girls.

Non-fiction books: Boys often prefer non-fiction books on subjects that fascinate them, such as dinosaurs, vehicles, or extreme facts. Even if you read the books aloud to your child, know that you are building their understanding of vocabulary and demonstrating fluency reading strategies. By listening and discussing the information, they are learning how to improve their reading comprehension. 

It is appropriate for kids to skim through the book and then read what interests them. An excellent motivator for some kids are books that include weird and wonderful facts, such as the fastest animals, or deep-sea creatures. The Guinness Book of Records is another favorite. If your child is a video gamer, a book, or reading material about strategies for play can be irresistible. 

Tickle the Funny Bone: Use humor as a motivator. Dig out the joke books from the library. Start reading comics together. Series such as “Captain Underpants” appeal to many early readers. The local youth librarian or your child’s teacher can help guide your selections.

2)  Reduce the Number of Words

Audiobooks will support your child’s reading skills. They listen to the text and follow along as it is read to them or use their imaginations to make pictures inside their head from the storyline. 

Try graphic novels for kids. Many parents discount comics and graphic novels as childish, but his form of reading eases the burden of too much text while encouraging reading of a more sophisticated storyline.

3)    Find a Social Reason for “Read Aloud”

In the phonics program you are using, you use real aloud to determine if your child can read the words in a story. But this is not the only time your child could be reading aloud. There is tremendous pressure on your child to read correctly while you are listening for errors or there to support phonics applications when you say “start sounding out the word.”

Take the pressure off your child by finding opportunities for your child to read aloud for pleasure. Select a book they know quite well and have them read to a younger sibling or cousin. Even a teddy bear can act as a “stand-in.” They can also read into a recording device, and then you can play their recording to another family member.

Try a Reader’s Theater technique. Have them select the character they want to be. Your child will read the character’s words, and you will read the rest of the story. If your child is young, select the repeated phrase in the picture book and have them read the words at the appropriate time. 

4) Use Different Forms of Reading for Practice

In modern-day society, there are many opportunities to read for locating information. Consider the following instances.

While Shopping:  grocery store aisles, packages for ingredients or directions, map of the complex

On a Road Trip or at a Theme Park: – maps and signs along the way

In the Library: sections for different types of books

In Your Neighborhood: billboards, signs, flyers

Photo by Suad Kamardeen on Unsplash

Restaurants: food selections, description of the meal, washroom signs, map to location of the restaurant, internet reviews

5) Make a Time and Place

Establish a family reading time. Let your kids see you enjoy reading during that time. You, as a role model, is a powerful influence. The time could be just before bedtime as a calming activity, after dinner, or waiting for everyone to return home for dinner. Select a time that will work for your family.

Help your reluctant reader make a special nook for reading. Provide a unique spot, swing or small tent with comfy pillows and a light for reading time. Stack the area with a variety of forms of reading material – picture books, schedules, magazines, maps, non-fiction books, joke books, and audiobooks, as well as some chapter books or novels.

6) Share the Experience

Read what your kid is reading and discuss the stories. Share what you like, what confuses you, and what you find surprising. Predict what you think may happen next. Discussion is a very valuable way to improve reading comprehension.

Get your child hooked on an author they like. If they are enjoying a story, they will likely want another story from the same author. Many kids started their love of reading by binging on books form their favorite author or favorite genre. 

You can worry about broadening their perspective once they are committed to reading.

What TO DO and What NOT TO DO

Sometimes without careful consideration, you are routinely discouraging your child from reading. Consider the ideas in this chart as a guideline for your daily activities. There are many opportunities to encourage your reluctant reader. It is equally significant to know what to stop doing.

Phonics and Phonemes

What to DOWhat NOT to DO
Use a program which introduces concepts in a sequence and is comprehensive. Use a research-based program.Introduce phonics concepts haphazardly. 
Determine what your child knows before starting a program. Use a checklist or another form of assessment.Start your reluctant reader at the first lesson to cover all concepts. Complete every lesson faithfully, even though your child has demonstrated they know the concept. 
Stop the phonics lesson if your child is restless. Take a break or do a different reading activity, such as you read aloud to them, or play a reading game.Continue with the lesson, even though your child is not motivated to learn.

Comprehension

What to DOWhat NOT to DO
Discuss what is going on in the book as you reread the story. Disturb the first reading of the book. – You need to enjoy the story first. Work on comprehension on the 2nd read (with the exception of prediction questions)
Ask questions that go beyond what is happening. Ask questions that are just facts from the story.
Do a picture walk through the picture book or a title and chapter heading preview  in a longer book to familiarize your child with the story before you read it.Start reading without a discussion about some background to the story. 
Discuss movies and TV shows as if they were books. Use insightful questions.Watch media without any discussion.

Fluency

What to DOWhat NOT to DO
Encourage reading aloud in many different circumstances. Practice reading with expression. Have your child read the words of 1 character and you do the rest of the reading in the story.Read a passage only once.
Encourage your child to read aloud to a younger sibling, cousin, or grandparent for pleasure.Use read aloud “only” for your evaluation of reading competency.
Read aloud in chorus with your child, to support phrasing and expression. You slow your pace to match theirs, but continue reading, even if they are making errors.Limit read aloud to correctness. – Have your child read aloud with expression once they are familiar with the text.

Vocabulary

What to DOWhat NOT to DO
Read exciting books to your child to introduce vocabulary.Stop reading aloud to your child because they are older and can read for themselves.
Play games to increase knowledge of vocabulary.Drill the meaning of words or have your child look words up in the dictionary.
Use sophisticated vocabulary in your normal conversations.Limit the words you use with your child, as you think they are not capable of understanding sophisticated vocabulary. 

Love of Reading  (Motivation)

What to DOWhat NOT to DO
Give free choice of books and genres for casual reading. Introduce many different kinds of books.Insist they read chapter books because they are what is expected.
Provide many different types of texts. For boys especially, try non-fiction texts in areas of interest.Reject graphic novels for kids, or comics as too childish.
Provide your child with a library card and visits to the library.Restrict their choices of books. – Let them discover what appeals to them.
Visit museums, science centers or other institutions of interest. Let your child decide the areas they want to investigate. Support them as they skim through the material to plan and experience their day.Restrict what your child experiences to activities that do not typically involve reading.
Read the prescribed books together as well as other books selected by your child.Read only the books prescribed by the program you are using. Ignore any books for pleasure.
Take time to read yourself, when your child is present. You could establish a reading time before bedtime hour.Never read in front of your child. 
Always expect that your child can read some of the words while supporting them when they need help.Explain that since you had difficulty with reading during your childhood, you expect them to follow in your footsteps.  
Reward your child for reading for pleasure. You can say, “You did an amazing job today concentrating while you were reading.”Act surprised that they have chosen to read all on their own.

Motivation is vital for your reluctant reader! 

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