Monday, July 25, 2011

My Smart Kid Hates to Read: Part I

It's summer. Kids should read. They should, in fact, ENJOY it. But some don't. Let's be honest. And frankly not all books deserve to be enjoyed. Not all books deserve to be read. But the main thing is trying to get a smart kid who hates to read the right book. Once they get hooked, they often stay hooked or at least are happy to get hooked again.

First off, if a smart kid hates to read, there may be something physical going on. Two of my kids are doing eye exercises having been tested (and failing) tracking tests, as well as looking for dyslexia -- even mild cases.

If you've got a slow reader on your hands who's smart, that IS the problem. They're ready for more complex material than the books on their level can offer. And the books on their intellectual level are so painful to get through that they aren't rewarded enough -- narrative-wise -- for their efforts.

The more you read, the more fluency you build up, the faster you get. But slow readers who are frustrated read less, get slower. In the long run, slow reading can be good -- it makes for a careful, attentive reader. Talk to writers - many of them are very slow readers. And fast reading is a problem of its own too. But readers have to be able to ingest enough words to keep the plot moving quickly enough to appease their smart minds. The way to do that is to read -- slowly and then more quickly...

So, today, I'll go over how to get smart kids who hate to read to the page and tomorrow how to pick books for smart kids who hate to read.

1. Model reading. If they see you engrossed, they're more likely to want to be engrossed.

2. Read aloud. No matter how old your kids are, have a read aloud going. Often you'll start the book and get to the end of a chapter one night, and they'll snag the book and read ahead, and then it's theirs. Because some of my kids are slow readers, I'll read the opening just to see if it hooks them and to get them in deep enough that they have to press on out of curiosity.

3. Read the book before you're allowed to see the movie. Easy rule. High motivation.

4. Have books in the house, laying around. Books in the home is a primary indicator of literacy. If they're there, they're more likely to be opened.

5. Buy good books. This seems simple enough, but really get on some notable book lists for kids -- ALA, Printz, Newbery, your state award lists -- and have them around, not random bleck.

6. Read the books your kids are reading and talk about them. Make reading something that goes beyond the page.

7. Make reading social. Organize a small book club -- even if it's just a couple kids. If kids are reading things that other kids are reading, they're more likely to dig in.

8. Library trips. Let your kids hand-pick. Let them get too many. But also make it a rule that they have to read the first chapter before tossing the book aside. That way, at least they're reading first chapters. Eventually one will snag them.

9. Don't force them to finish books they're reading for "pleasure." Forced pleasure isn't pleasurable.

10. Help them get through assigned summer reading -- if it's strict and something they loathe -- in exchange for them reading -- on their own -- a book of their own choosing (vetted by you).

Keep your kids opening books. This is crucial. They can't get snagged if they're not opening books.