Reading doesn’t seem to be as interesting to today’s children as it used to be. Screens have taken over as traditional books and toys fall to the wayside. But reading skills are still important. They open a child’s world to creativity, language, and communication skills. And reading does not need to be boring!
The trick is to keep reading interesting. See, my daughter was, and still is, a bookworm like myself. I never thought I’d have a child who didn’t love to read. But then I had my son, and he isn’t into reading. He struggles to remember what he reads, so reading becomes a chore for him. He’s now been reading for a few years, but I’ve had to get really creative to keep him interesting in gaining new reading skills. I know several other parents deal with something similar, so I’ve rounded up a few ways to improve reading skills in children even if they don’t enjoy reading.
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How to Improve Reading Skills of a Child Who Doesn’t Love to Read
The following tips can boost reading skills without making a child feel like they’re working to read:
1. Use Their Technology
Your child doesn’t like actual books? Why not download some e-book apps for his iPad? For really resistant readers, you can even search for e-books or audiobooks that can be read TO them. Even if he is not reading himself, he is still soaking in format, sentence structure, letter sounds, sight words, etc. Ask your child to listen to or read one short e-book (or one or two chapters for older children) per day, and then give him an incentive. For example, “Once you’re finished with your book, you can play outside”.
2. Study Signs
Make a game out of looking at road signs, store signs, and any other signage you may find while you are out and about. You may be surprised at how quickly your child begins to recognize words like “Exit” and “Stop” after you repetitively read them when you see them.
3. Sing Songs Together
Kids’ songs may not always be the most enjoyable for parents to sing (in fact, they can drive you absolutely crazy as you hum them while you attempt to fall asleep), but singing them can be a great way to improve literacy. Songs can help teach children rhythm, syllables, and rhyming. Choose songs that have educational value too, like those that specifically teach letters and letter sounds.
4. Have Family Reading Time
Setting out 20-30 minutes of quiet reading time with the family every day can have huge benefits for children. Start small, with maybe just a few days per week or 5-10 minutes per day. Read books that everyone will enjoy or ones that older siblings can read to younger siblings to get everyone involved. Don’t forget: There are so many perks that come along with reading to your older child, too! Fun bonus: Have them read to their pets to improve reading skills! My son loves doing this with our dog. Proof:
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Things have been hectic since the start of school. But then stuff like this happens: Happily reading to our dog during reading time. Unbothered. Content. Innocent. Confident. Purely joyful. And, once again, I'm reminded that it'll all be okay. #remotelearning #homeschool #homeschool2020 #virtuallearning #onlinelearning #covid_19 #school2020 #momlife #parenting #3rdgrade #shihtzu #yorkie #shorkie
5. Write Notes to Your Child
Stick a cute note in your child’s lunch box, or send her a card at camp. Even younger children who do not yet read can pick up some important literacy skills with this simple approach. Kids will begin to understand that writing is a way to communicate thoughts while getting a bit of reading practice in.
6. Create a Vocabulary Word of the Day/Week
Kids love using new words they learn (even the bad ones you let slip sometimes!). Create a fun vocabulary word of the day or week for you and your child to use in as many ways as you can think of. Write it down in a central part of your family space, like a big chalkboard in the living room. Point out the letters and letter sounds in the word and use your finger to slide across the letters as you read it. Your child will learn to recognize the word and learn its meaning the more you use it every day.
7. Talk About Stories
An important thing to remember as you read with your child or after he reads is to talk about what he read. All it takes is 5-10 minutes with a few questions to get your child talking about a story. This helps develop reading comprehension. And it can actually get him more engaged as a reader when he sees how interested you are in what he reads.
8. Tune Into Her Interests
Does your child have any interests that really fascinate her? Is she into maps or checking the weather? As peculiar as her interests may be to you, they are what makes her tick as a person. So, tap into these interests to make her enjoy reading even more. Have her scan the internet for local weather reports or find the directions to your grocery store and have her read them as you drive there. Try to squeeze in as many sneaky reading tasks as you can each day, you stealthy parent, you.Tap into your child's interests to make her enjoy reading even more. Examples: Have her scan the internet for local weather reports or read the directions to the store. Squeeze in fun tasks daily! Click To Tweet
9. Get a Book Club Membership
Many children’s book clubs are priced well for those on a budget and you can tailor the books you are sent to your child’s age, reading level, and interests. There are so many books available in book stores that it can actually be overwhelming for your child to pick one to read. But book clubs can take the guesswork out of finding the perfect book to interest your little one. The more interesting it is to him, the better the chances of him wanting to read it!
10. Make a List of Known Words
Parents know that accomplishing something makes kids feel good about themselves. So why not give your little one a visual of their accomplishments? Write down or type up a list of the words your child can successfully read on her own. Then, add to the list each time she reads and correctly says a new word. Then, offer a reward for a major milestone, like reading 50 words.
11. Get a Subscription Box
I’m loving some of the subscription boxes for kids that get them creating and thinking. And beyond the actual project that comes in each box, there’s a beneficial reading aspect. Usually, these boxes have instructions and things to read. It’s kind of a sneaky way to throw reading in, but it works. Find a box your child will love, like Kiwi Co. This company makes boxes for kids of all ages, and they’re all STEM-focused, so there’s lots of tinkering and creating. Try the Tinker Crate for ages 9-16+, the Kiwi Crate for ages 5-8, and the Koala Crate for ages 2-4.
12. Try Fun Phonics and Reading Programs
There are so many amazing programs available now to help children read. My son, for example, LOVES Epic Books. The program has tons of books for his reading level that keep him interested. He can even read about the Jonas Brothers, his favorite band. Plus, it gives your child fun rewards when they complete books. My kiddo loves seeing his “Books Read” number keep inching higher. It’s crazy how much it has boosted his motivation to read.
We also loved ABC Mouse when he was a bit younger (it’s excellent for beginning readers). The makers of ABC Mouse recently came out with another program for kids 2-12 called Reading IQ, which offers digital books. Adventure Academy is another one from the same company. It’s an online game your child can play that targets reading, math, science, and more. Right now, you can take advantage of Adventure Academy’s Reboot Home Learning Sale and get a full year subscription for just $45 (that’s more than 62% off)!
13. Get Them Involved in Library Programs
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A few days ago, I actually had an editor comment on an article I wrote. It said: "Do libraries even exist anymore?" This was in response to a suggestion I made about using libraries to research content to study. I wasn't sure what to say. I know the editor was being part facetious and part serious. No hard feelings, but I'd be lying if I said I didn't take that comment to heart. I begrudgingly deleted the line in my article, but I never responded to that comment. I wish I had. Of course libraries exist. My kids and I visit ours all the time. I'd be devastated if we didn't have a place to go for after school fun, lazy weekends spending time with books, and all the special activities our library hosts. The place is incredible. Besides all that, isn't it up to us adults to MAKE them exist? Technology shouldn't replace books, ever. I love technology. But kids should have the experience of digging their noses into a good book. Of browsing through rows and rows of books to find that perfect pick. Of being responsible with a library card. Of having everything they ever wanted to learn about at their fingertips. Yep, libraries sure do exist, and I'll make sure my children take full advantage of them. #bookworm #booklover #librarylover #digintoagoodbook #freelancewriter #momlife #parenting #wahm #wahmlife #mompreneur #freelancer #librariesstillexist
Our library system has been incredible for my little man. He loves visiting the library to participate in its fun, engaging reading programs. They do weekly programs for kids of all ages. He looks forward to going every week, turning the library into an exciting place for him to go. Each time we go to a program, we stop and check out some books. It’s become a ritual he looks forward to, and he always wants to read his books when we get home.
14. Let Books Tag Along
Another way to encourage kids to read is by seamlessly making books a part of your life. If you’re going on a long car ride, have your youngster pick a few books to bring along. Visiting the grandparents? Choose some books for your kiddo to read to them. Heading to a doctor’s appointment? A book might be the perfect tool to keep your child busy while waiting. Bring your books along too! It’ll become second nature for a book to always be an accessory for your family members.
Remember: YOU are your child’s primary teacher. Read with him, engage with him, and share his interests through reading. In doing so, you are setting an example that reading provides quality time and a fun learning experience you both can enjoy and you’ll improve a child’s reading skills one step at a time.
How do you sneak in some quality reading time with your child? Give me your best reading tips down below! You might even help other parents improve reading skills in their little ones.
**This post was originally written on November 6th, 2016 and has been updated on October 3rd, 2020.
Amy is a mom of two, freelance writer, and blog manager who works with family-focused businesses to improve their content strategies. You can find her published work on Reader’s Digest Online, MSN, Niche, Frugal For Less, and other lifestyle publications.