Distractions and Health Issues

This is post #2 in the series “When Children–and Adults Too–Hate Reading”

Do you have an “I hate reading” child (or adult) in your family? Sometimes it isn’t the reading that’s the problem–instead, it might well be too many distractions in life, or it could be health issues. In this post, we’ll discuss how to solve these issues. Happy reading!

Distractions: TV, video games, too many sports and lessons, etc.:

  • Set a limit on electronics. Yes, you can. You must! Decide how many–or rather, how few–minutes (notice I didn’t say hours) your children (and yourself!) will be allowed to spend daily on television, movies, video games, internet surfing, social media (kill that monster!), etc. Suddenly, your days will seem to have way more hours in them … and you can fill that extra time with reading.
  • Too much time on electronics has negative effects on brain development, social development, eye strain, stress levels, etc. etc. etc. For adults, too. Break the addiction!
  • (People argue they are “reading” online, and to some degree that’s true. But it’s a different kind of reading than reading for enjoyment–or even for intentional learning. We need variety.) ‘Nuff said!
  • Set limits on other activities, too! While sports, lessons, clubs, and so on can be wonderful experiences, children (and adults, too) need leisure time to relax and play. And reading can be a great leisure time activity, right? Too many activities can lead to exhaustion, lack of focus, stress … speaking of which …

Eating habits, sleep habits, tiredness, stress, and other health issues:

  • While reading for many is a “relaxing” activity, for others (and especially children–or adults) who are just learning to read, it can really be an intensive, focused activity that requires a lot of energy. When these readers are experiencing other stresses at the same time, it can turn reading into a lifelong “hate to do” activity. While we can’t remove all stress from our lives, there are some solutions that we can definitely work on:
  • Provide a regulated sleep pattern–a regular bedtime, a regular number of hours of sleep, a comfortable bed in a quiet and dark space.
  • Avoid “screen time” within two hours before bedtime, as the light from TV, computers, tablets, and other electronics causes difficulty in getting to sleep. Instead provide relaxing activities (a warm bath, a comforting glass of milk, building legos, listening to relaxing music, or other relaxing and enjoyable activities depending on the child’s interests), and of course, bedtime read-aloud to the child (or for adults, read-aloud from another adult, or listening to novels on tape or interesting but not high-stress radio programs). Ideally, homework should not be done within an hour of bedtime, as it, too, can be stressful–unless it’s a project the child is really interested in.
  • Eat healthy food. Children use a lot of energy (including for learning reading) and healthy, regular meals are an important part of that. Have 3 healthy meals a day, with healthy snacks mid-morning and mid-afternoon (carrot sticks, fruit, etc.). If possible, eat meals together as a family around the dining table–a great time to discuss what you’ve been reading, by the way; and some people even have their read-aloud right there after the meal is finished 🙂
  • Snacks and packed lunches: Do not have snacks within an hour to two hours before bedtime; if the child says he or she is hungry, often a glass of water or a glass of milk (more filling) will do the trick. Carrot or celery sticks are okay if the child is really hungry. Avoid salty and sugary snacks after supper (or anytime for that matter). If at all possible, limit pop and other sugary drinks (including fruit juices) to special occasions like birthdays; do not provide them on a regular basis. Also, if at all possible, provide healthy recess and lunch for school (or home, if homeschooling). Homemade foods are always better than prepackaged, instant foods–and a thermos of hot food from yesterday’s supper is a great way to use up leftovers. Your child’s health and energy levels will be much better, and their energy and focus for reading will also improve.
  • Analyze sources of life stress that may be impacting learning (including learning to read). Is your child involved in too many structured activities (sports, music lessons, children’s clubs, etc.), and lacks time for play and for — yes, children need this!!! — personal quiet time. In the mad rush to make sure a child has all the activities that are “recommended” (usually by those who sell these activities), children often end up tired and stressed. Let reading become an option for play and quiet time, instead of a formal activity squeezed between a bunch of other formal activities.
  • Family/home stresses: If there are a lot of family stresses in the home (illness, relationship problems, multiple low-income jobs, etc.), see if you can find someone (a grandparent, aunt or uncle, responsible teen, or someone else the child enjoys and looks up to), and arrange a regular quiet time with that person in a location where the stresses are out of sight. Reading enjoyably together can be part of that time, as well as other quiet activities such as table games or learning a skill such as knitting, basic carpentry, or whatever the two enjoy doing together. Relating reading to this peaceful time is a great way to take away some of the “stress” of reading.

Eyesight problems:

  • Some children (and adults) have undiagnosed eyesight issues. Eye exams are often free or low-cost for children or see if you can get a referral from your family doctor. Even if you have to pay for it, it’s a really important investment.
  • And you don’t need to buy the fanciest, most fashionable, expensive glasses! It may turn out that a person’s reading issues are actually eyesight issues. Get them checked and dealt with!

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


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