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Discouraged Readers - Who are They and How Do We Help Them?

by : Tiffany Tunnell
posted on : 10/16/2014 11:04:20 AM

Is your child an avid reader?  Or, will your child do just about anything else, including chores, before they pick up a book to read?  Many children, and even some adults, can be considered discouraged readers.  Discouraged readers are people who get little or no gratification from reading, have a lack of interest in books, or may even find displeasure in reading.  

You may be asking “Why is interest in reading declining and, more importantly, what can we do to help?”  The first thing to realize is the entire idea of reading has changed rapidly during the past decade.  Whereas parents used to read newspapers and watch the daily news on TV, today most people get the news online by watching news related videos.  

Lifestyle habits have also reduced the number of active readers in most households.  Parents often find themselves balancing their children’s extracurricular activities, homework, and projects with their own busy schedules.  As a result, many parents find it difficult to “make time” to sit down and read with their children.  The days of carrying heavy textbooks to class are gone too.  Today’s school children mostly use online curriculums which don’t require physical books.

Another culprit has been the dramatic shift in Standardized Testing in our school systems. Our children have been trained to read with purpose, rather than for enjoyment.  There has been an increased focus on reading smaller, condensed passages whose sole purpose is finding answers to test questions.  Although these questions do increase comprehension, it can also be argued they lead to a dramatic drop in enjoyment.

Then there’s technology.  With the ever increasing access to videos, e-mails, texts, blogs, music, and interactive games; many adults and children have switched to activities they find more enjoyable than reading.  After all, reading is, by nature, much slower paced than these fast paced new methods of communication.  Accordingly, many children perceive reading as being boring.  It’s much easier, and generally more fun, for today’s families to go to the movies for a couple hours to watch a movie that’s “Based on the Novel”, rather than reading the actual book.

Lastly, due to all this increased access to online modes of communication, our eyes are feeling much more tired, and may even really hurt.  Many children today are experiencing vision problems at much younger ages.  This can make reading more difficult and even painful, which often corresponds to a decrease in enjoyment.

So, what can we, as parents, do to help?  One thing obviously would be to limit screen time and to encourage book time.  Another is to recognize the differences between interested readers and disinterested readers.  An interested reader will use a story to relate to a character who is feeling the same emotions they are, or will live vicariously through the favorite character. Engaged readers naturally feel a connection to characters in the story.

Remember the phrase, “Monkey see, Monkey do?”  As child expert Dr. Kevin Leman says “Values are caught, rather than taught.”  Children follow the examples we set.  If your child never sees you reading for enjoyment, odds are they will not value doing it themselves. Set aside family time where computers, phones, and TVs are turned off, to ensure a quiet reading environment. Or, for families with small children, consider reading with the entire family. This can even become a daily routine, just like homework, chores, and bedtime.

Also, encourage your children to give books as gifts, or take them to the library or bookstore to choose reading material.  Be mindful not to discourage children by being negative about their reading choices. Comics and magazines may not be your preferred reading material, but saying no to their choice often translates into kids feeling like you aren’t supportive of them.

Further, NEVER use reading as punishment for children and you should ALWAYS encourage interest in reading. Reading should be encouraged at all levels and parents should be familiar with age appropriate reading expectations for their children. For young children, looking at a picture book and creating a story based on the illustrations is a GREAT place to start. Young children also love hearing silly voices and asking questions about the story that is being read!  As children grow older, ask them to draw pictures of their story, play dress up to their favorite story characters for Halloween, or present a book report to the family.  These are great ways to spark imagination.

Additionally, make sure your child is reading at a correct level. Books that are too difficult often will lead to frustration, but books that are too easy can spark boredom and disinterest. When choosing books, start with a few different levels of books and look for signs that your child can read most of the book independently, with only a little support from you.

Finally, seek out additional programs that will help your child gain confidence and meet their reading goals.  MathRise Learning Centers is one such program, where instruction is offered One-on-One and covers all the foundational material - spelling, grammar, reading, comprehension, and writing.  Programs like these are likely to build excitement, engagement, and confidence.  To find out more about MathRise, its unique curriculum, and the programs it offers, please visit the links at the top of this page under Educational Programs.

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