Poor Methods of Teaching Reading

This is post #4 in the series “When Children–and Adults Too–Hate Reading”

Sometimes people “hate reading” because they haven’t been taught well, or because the method used to teach them didn’t fit their personal learning style or needs. But all is not lost. Check out these tips:

  • Don’t expect one method to “do it all.” Different people (children and adults alike) learn in different ways. When it comes to reading, some children seem to just “pick it up” by watching others read, by following along the page as their parentsread to them, by looking at colourful picture books, and other similar “whole language” methods.
  • But for other people, a more step-by-step, following-the-rules method, like phonics, is required.
  • While read-aloud or read-together works well for some, plenty of individual quiet reading time works better for others.
  • Some children can focus on reading for long periods of time, while others need frequent breaks with lots of active motion between reading sessions.
  • Some children will “read anything,” while others need to be “caught up” into reading materials and topics that are of personal interest or usefulness.
  • Some children are developmentally ready to read at as young as 2 or 3 years of age, while others aren’t ready till ages 9 or 10. If your child is one of the latter, don’t just sit around and wait or wring your hands over it:
    • Read to/with your child.
    • Explore the world together.
    • While some children “read to learn,” others find it difficult to read until they have gathered a good foundation of broad basic knowledge.
    • Others need to develop some personal interests that motivate them to learn to read in order to follow their passions. Some examples:
      • For my son, the “Pokemon” games, videos, handbooks and novels were his “gateway” to finally learn to read at ages 10 to 11, but because we’d already spent years reading aloud and exploring the world, once he did start reading, he would read anything. His next major reading interest after Pokemon turned out to be college-level physics books, as he became interested in rocketry at age 12. Then sci-fi and fantasy novels, when he started watching movies and playing video games. And history books after making a model of a medieval village. And so on.
      • I’ve had students who finally learned to read at age 16 or 17 because they desperately wanted to take the “learner’s exam” and get their driver’s licence–if only their families and/or teachers had been able to find a motivation earlier!

The point of all this is that you need to find what works for your child (or yourself!) through experimentation and life-long learning adventure. For most successful readers, a combination of these methods and approaches provides the best outcomes.

You know your child (and yourself!) better than does any teacher. Explore and encourage, and together you will find and use the methods that work best for each individual reader/learner. Take responsibility; don’t depend on others, though of course they can be helpful.

Does your child attend a school and/or day-care that doesn’t seem to encourage reading enough? Here are some tips:

  • Encourage classroom teachers and administrators to bring “real authors” (and illustrators and publishers) into classrooms or to assemblies to share how “real” books and other reading materials are created. If possible, find a way to fundraise to purchase a personally signed (at the event) copy for each child.
  • Spend some time in the classroom or day-care and observe the surroundings. Are lots of reading materials available? If not, maybe you can get people to donate appropriate materials (extras from your own home library; low-cost books from library book sales or thrift stores; hold a community book drive).
  • Observe the classroom or day-care activities and talk to the teacher to get a sense of how much time is dedicated to reading in one way or another. If the teacher is swamped by other requirements that push reading to the sidelines, can you volunteer to help with reading, and/or create a group of volunteers?
  • Find out what methods are being used to teach and encourage reading. Different children require different approaches, and while some children “catch up” very easily, others need a lot more help.
    • Is there an over-emphasis on one form of reading instruction to the detriment/lack of other forms?
    • Is there a good balance between whole reading and phonics?
    • Is there a good variety of reading materials available and used?
    • Is reading used in all subject areas?
    • Does the teacher include reading-focused activities such as library time, personal reading times, read-alouds, etc.?
    • How can you help the teacher rather than just complain?
    • What can you do at home with your child (and possibly other children in the neighbourhood) to “fill in the gaps” of the school’s overwhelming responsibilities?
  • Most teachers are willing to incorporate good ideas, if presented in a positive manner, and especially if help is offered. But if you run into a wall without bookshelves, so to speak, you may want to consider alternative learning situations (a different class or school or day-care, or homeschooling, or involvement in reading groups outside of school) … and remember, YOU the parent are responsible. Therefore…
    • Don’t depend on the school or day-care to teach your child to read. You are the greatest influence on your child. Make reading an everyday family activity. If you aren’t a good reader, get some tutoring, and of course, read more and read often.
    • Community groups often offer free courses for adult non-readers; don’t be embarrassed to ask (your local library is a good source of information) about such courses, and sign up for them.
    • If you feel you aren’t “qualified” to teach your children to read, sign up for programs like “One to One Reading”  and take the training they provide. These training sessions typically only take 2 or 3 hours and are jam-packed with incredibly useful hands-on information. Use the information to help your own children at home–and volunteer to help other children at school.

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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