Not too long ago, I realized my 8-year-old son was a reluctant reader. He’s a perfectly good reader, but would rather do just about anything but read. And that’s a particular sore spot for me, because there are few things I’d rather do more than sit down with a good book. In fact, I often lament how little time I do have to read.

My son is fortunate enough to have an incredibly intuitive teacher who noticed, like I had, that he was a very capable reader, just not an interested one. So when she called me one day to tell me that the only time my son was disruptive in school was during the silent reading time in his class, then informed me that she knew the times he would only pretend to read, I hung up the phone determined to get more help for my reluctant reader.

Related: 14 smart ways to get your young kids excited about reading this summer

Together, his teacher and I forged a plan and in only a matter of days we saw some significant changes. Here are the 6 clever ways in which we turned my reluctant reader into a reading enthusiast.

[Top photo: Annie Spratt/Unsplash]

1. Ask your child’s school if he or she can bring books in for independent reading times.

My son’s teacher was the one who suggested he bring in books that interested him. My son, who has a fascination with history and battles, was pretty psyched that he would be allowed to read about George Washington or The Battle Of Gettysburg. He’s also totally into Minecraft spoof books. The good news is, my kid is no longer disruptive during independent reading times. The bad news is, I’m constantly replenishing his stash of books! But as long as he’s reading, I’m happy to spend a bit of extra time and money on Amazon or make some trips to the library. It’s certainly cheaper than getting him a tutor if he falls behind out of boredom.


2. Read your own book while your child reads his.

Part of most kids’ homework is to read for a designated amount of time. Getting my kid to do started out a nightmare, but a small change made a big difference — when I started sitting with him and reading my own book beside him, I noticed his reading attention span increased. I love that I’m modeling reading as recreation. And though I could really use those 20 to 30 minutes making dinner, sitting alongside him during his independent reading gets me a bit of stolen time for something I love, too.

Well, two things I love: reading, and spending time with my son. And yes, sometimes dinner is 30 minutes late. Oh well.



3. Let your child help buy the books.

My son is much more interested in what he reads when he has a say in it. (Sound familiar?)  So when it comes time to refresh his book collection, I take him with me to the bookstore or let him cruise Amazon with me. I tend give him a set number of books he can purchase — usually only one or two — and if he wants more, he knows we hit the library where he can check out whatever he wants. He’s way more invested in a book he’s chosen and actually (dare I say it?) looks forward to homework time.

If you’re having issues with a reluctant reader, you might also check with your child’s teacher and find out how much flexibility you’ve got when it comes to book choices. Sometimes kids are assigned “just right” books based on their reading level for classroom reading periods, but often, grade school teachers provide choice time, during which they’ll even encourage those Minecraft or comic books.

Related: Turning reluctant readers into excited ones: 3 tips from LeVar Burton

4. Break up the assigned reading time.

A full 30 minutes of independent reading time may sound like nothing to us bookworms, but to elementary school-aged kids, it can feel like an eternity. It’s like half a little league baseball game! Go ahead and break up the time if that helps it seem more manageable — 15 minutes before dinner, 15 after. Or maybe your child likes to read a little before bed, then a little first thing in the morning.

You can also give your reader an intermission, with an excuse to be silly halfway through reading time. In my house, our silly breaks consist of something physical like an impromptu 5-minute dance party or a run around the yard. Hey, if baseball players can have a seventh inning stretch, why can’t young readers take a break too?

And, pssst, pro parenting tip: if you call anything silly to a kid, they’re way more likely to do it.


Kid Reading On A Stack Of Books

[image: Gaelle Marcel/Unsplash]

5. Make reading part of a bigger project.

Since my son responds well to projects over rote memorization or completing worksheets, we try and make reading a part of the bigger picture. We might research subjects discussed in the book he’s reading, look up words in other languages from the locations mentioned in the story, or I might have him write his own story about one of the characters in the book.

After having finished one of his Minecraft spoofs, he wrote his own diary entry as if he were the main character in the book. It was a great way for me to assess his comprehension, and he loved the creativity it gave him. (Even if I was thinking practically.)

Another example: after he tore through a book about flags from around the world, I let him pick his favorite country flag and we researched various recipes froom that region. So not only did I get to learn a lot of facts about India, I also got to make a curried chicken salad with my kid. Big win.


6. Start a book club with your kid.

One of my concerns when my son reads independently is that I can’t tell whether he’s really reading, or browsing. (Clearly, a difference his teacher has mastered!) So sometimes we’ll both read the same book at the same time, and talk about it afterward. We call it our book club, which he loves because who doesn’t want to be in a club? Sure, I’m not always interested in the same subjects he is, but he loves the bonding experience of reading the same thing at the same time. Plus, I get to ask him questions about what we’ve read without appearing like I’m subjecting him a comprehension inquisition. Plus, it’s just another creative way to spend even more quality time together. Now, if only I could convince him not to kick me out of the club when he turns double digits.