Sadly, some children “hate reading” … as do many adults, unfortunately. Here’s hoping some of these tips will awaken a love of reading … after all, non-readers miss out on so many wonderful experiences, right? In this series, I’ll list some of the main reasons why people “hate to read” and then give some solutions/tips for each issue. Choose those that are relevant to the “reading hater” in your life, young or old, and help them leap with enthusiasm into the wonderful adventure reading can be!
Lack of seeing parents and other significant adults enjoy reading:
- How often do the children in your family see you reading–for a variety of purposes? We all know that “Do as I say, not as I do” doesn’t work in most areas of life–and it doesn’t work when it comes to encouraging reading, either. Let your children see you enjoy reading. Next time you’re tempted to turn on the TV, or check Facebook, or text your friends, or play a video game … instead, pick up a book or magazine. Or read novels. Use “how-to mechanics” books the next time your car needs a tune-up (and invite your children to help). Use “real cookbooks” and cook from scratch (and invite your children to join you). If they see you reading, and ask questions or want you to read aloud … do so!
- Let them see you write, too. Reading and writing go together. Send greeting cards (take your children along to the store to read the cards and help pick out appropriate messages). Write Christmas family letters together. Write “real letters” to friends and families.
- Go to the library (and take your kids–and adult non-readers–along). Make it a great habitual family activity. Libraries really do have “something for everyone.” Even if non-readers start in the video section or the picture book section, all those books and magazines are bound to start attracting their interest! Take your kids to children’s “reading hours” and have them sign up for summer reading programs. Oh! and don’t just drop them off and pick them up later. Stay and be part of the activity, or at least get a book or magazine and sit nearby where they can see that you enjoy reading, too.
- When you go to the mall, always stop in the bookstore, even if just to browse. If you can’t afford to buy, then take a trip to the library to borrow books you spotted in the bookstore. When you go to the grocery store or department store or even the hardware store, browse the magazine racks–and buy one or two occasionally. Let your children see you read from the magazine piles in the doctor’s or dentist’s office. Go to both new and used bookstores, and especially support the independent bookstores in your community. When you go to the thrift store, spend lots of time in the book section (and buy lots–great deals!). Choose reading materials together as a family, and then read together, discuss what you’re reading, and do some projects together based on what you’re reading.
- Have reading materials in every room of your home: What else are bedside tables for, after all? Cookbooks in the kitchen. How-to books in the rec room and workshop. Lots of bookshelves in the living room and den and even in hallways and on window sills. Out on the deck in the summertime. And of course, bathroom (aka “reading room”) reading materials. Even reading haters can’t seem to resist “John” books and magazines (google “Uncle John’s bathroom readers”!). And make use of your neighbourhood’s Little Free Library–even set one up in your yard.
- Bring home a variety of magazines from the library (or browse them while you’re there with your children) and then subscribe to at least 2 or 3 … let those non-readers choose ones that grab their interest. It might not be exactly to your own “taste” or what you’d prefer they read, but there’s an amazing effect of “personal choice” and “ownership.”
- And of course, Christmas (and other holidays) and birthdays (and Father’s Day, Mother’s Day, Anniversaries, etc.) are a perfect excuse for gifts of reading materials (whether books, magazines, subscriptions, or a gift card to the local bookstore).
- Get involved in activities that require reading to some extent. Live theatre groups, research on topics of personal/mutual interest (if your non-reader is interested in a topic that you really aren’t, then get interested!), reading clubs, writers’ groups, church, synagogue, mosque, temple or other spiritual gatherings (reading is involved in the singing, liturgy, scriptures, etc., as a group activity), courses (even hands-on courses almost always require some reading), sports (ask coaches to suggest good titles to the children, and to include “blackboard sessions” in their coaching), and so much more.
- If you know any local authors, attend their book launches as a family, and if the book is of interest to your non-reader, purchase a copy and have it personally signed and encourage author and child to interact!
- Also involve reading activities in play dates (group read-aloud, trips to the library together, etc.), family vacation trips with an hour or two of “rest time” mid-day, or as an option for “nap time” if your child needs some mid-day relaxation. Science proves that for adults and children alike, a half hour (or for some people, up to an hour) of rest in the middle of the day provides lots of energy and improved brain function for the rest of the day, and leads to a good night’s sleep. While some people can easily fall asleep for that time period, others require something to “slow down” and light, enjoyable reading can do the trick. This is especially good during long weekends and more extended holiday times when we really are supposed to be rejuvenating. Make it a family/group activity!
Lack of being read to:
- Children who experience being read to from a young age usually look forward eagerly to learning to read. The good old-fashioned “bedtime story” time never goes out of style. And it’s not too late to start if the non-reader is older. Consider:
- Family read-aloud times as a scheduled daily or weekly activity, allowing the non-readers to “just listen” until they want to start reading. Then listen to them with respect and encouragement.
- Neighbourhood reading times. When my husband was going to college, there were a number of single students in dorms who were missing their families and were tired of the institutional food. They’d come to our house once a week for a “home-cooked meal” and then we’d all sit around together and read aloud–our six children under 8 years old, those college-age young people, and even some older folks who heard about it and started coming by. We read the entire Narnia series over one winter! It was good for our children who all became avid readers, it was good for the college students who at that point were feeling swamped by heavy-duty academic reading and now rediscovered the joys of fiction, and it was good for all of us as an “extended family” to spend such wonderful times together.
- Set “quiet times” when everyone in the family (or other group) is required to sit quietly … without electronics. Provide a broad selection of interesting reading materials–including things like magazines, newspapers, graphic novels, comic books, non-fiction. Make personal reading a family/group activity. Non-readers will probably start with picture-based materials, but if they are interested in the topics, they’ll be drawn into reading, too.
Do you have tips or anecdotes related to encouraging non-readers to become avid readers? We’d love to have you share them in the comments! Thank you!
Check out all the posts in this series, “When Children–and Adults Too–Hate Reading”:
Model Reading and Read Aloud
Distractions and Health Issues
Negative Influences and Reading as a Chore
Poor Methods of Teaching Reading
Lack of Reading Materials and Negative Attitudes
Dyslexia and Other Learning Differences
Practical Tips to Encourage Reading