We all know the tale of the groundhog who fears his shadow. If he catches a glimpse of it on February 2, he burrows back into his hole and winter weather continues for six more weeks. If he doesn’t see his shadow, spring arrives sooner. Just as the groundhog disappears back underground at the sight of his shadow, some children immediately retreat when they see books. It is our job as parents and educators to coax these reluctant readers out of their hideaways, and show them that reading is fun!
Parents often tell me that their child would rather play than sit down with a book and they ask how they can make reading less like a chore. “Reading, when it is treated as something we do because it is good for us, quickly loses its joy for both you and your child,” says Jacquelyn C. Miller, MLIS, Reach Out and Read’s National Book Coordinator.
To help children get more excited about reading, Miller offers the following tips to parents:
- Ask your child if he is listening. Sometimes, the child who is zooming around the room pretending to be an airplane is actively listening. If he isn’t, it’s alright to put the book down and pick it up again when you’re both ready to share a story together.
- Don’t be afraid to start and stop. There’s nothing wrong with reading a page or two of a book and putting it down. You can always pick it up later. You don’t even have to finish a book if it isn’t holding your child’s interest. There are some books that your child will happily sit through time and again, and others that they won’t enjoy as much. Let your child choose the book– having the power to choose can make a book more appealing.
- Incorporate reading into your daily routine. Words constantly surround us and reading can be done anywhere. Pointing out words and numbers on street signs, store signs, packages and/or, newspapers helps your child understand that the words from the pages of books are used everywhere, and that reading is an important part of everyday life.
- Turn reading into a game. Start with the most important word in a child’s world – her name – and ask her to find the letter that starts her name in other places. Expand this to include all the letters of the alphabet or other family members’ names. Play the “alphabet game” in the car by searching for letters of the alphabet on street signs and billboards. These types of games will help your child find joy in reading and start to develop the skills needed to become a good reader.
In addition to these tips, following is a list of doctor-recommended books that will be sure to grab your reluctant reader’s attention:
Books for children 0-3 years old
- Moo Baa La La La by Sandra Boynton
- Goodnight, Goodnight Construction Site by Sherri Duskey Rinkes
- Chicka Chicka Boom Boom by Bill Martin, Jr.
- Sheep in a Jeep by Nancy E. Shaw
- Little Blue Truck by Alice Schertle
Books for children 3-6 years old
- Five Little Monkeys Jumping on the Bed by Eileen Christelow
- I Know an Old Lady Who Swallowed a Fly by Nadine Berard Westcott
- The Little Mouse, the Red Ripe Strawberry and Big Hungry Bear by Don Wood
- Have You Seen My Duckling? by Nancy Tafuri
- Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus! by Mo Willems