Wednesday, August 14, 2013

How To Motivate a Non-Reader Child to Read For Fun: No, It's Not Impossible!

I always feel humbled when I get asked for advice. This is probably because as the youngest sibling in a family of five kids (my oldest sibling is 17 years older than me, and the second youngest sibling is 9 years older than me), I often received unsolicited advice. So when I am asked, I'm flattered and humbled, but now as I get older, I try to age gracefully and be very careful not to sound preachy or be a "know-it-all."

Now when a Teacher Mom of four boys (the oldest has finished a bachelor's degree and now has his own career) asks me for advice, I stop dead in my tracks.

"I really don't know anything! I just write." I wanted to tell her.

But she did ask me a very important question that was near and dear to me. She asked about how to motivate a non-reader child to read for pleasure. The funny thing is, I was just going through a similar issue. I was so perplexed that my little girl didn't devour books as much as I did. It was easy for me to bond with my stepson Devyn because we both loved reading and storytelling. It was much different to foster reading for pleasure in my daughter Zoe, a kinesthetic learner, who is very active and athletic. She reads well and excels in school, but she just won't pick up a book and sit still for hours like Devyn and I would. I still try to come up of creative ways to get her to read without forcing her. I haven't given up just yet, and I am even more encouraged when I hear other moms go through a similar experience.

I asked for the Teacher Mom's permission to share our correspondence via Facebook chat because I know there are many moms out there who feel the same way. She was gracious enough to allow me to do so without having to change any names. Her name is Kim. She just celebrated her 25th wedding anniversary by going to the Rangers game with her husband because that's what they did on their first date. They brought along their four boys with them. This is what she asked me:

"Okay, Mrs. Pulido!! Help! We have the most non-reader on the planet! Cole starts books but loses interest so quickly. The only topic he wants to read is about sports! Unfortunately, those books, for the most part are NOT Accelerated Reader books! Any advice or recommendations? Do you have a "knock your socks off" novel suggestions for an incoming 6th grader?"

This is what I told her:

Hmm..I don't know about knock your socks off novels for Cole, but here are a few of fiction book suggestions for teen boys who love sports (I can't believe Cole is an incoming 6th grader?!):

1. Peak by Roland Smith (intellectual rebel kid who summits Mt. Everest with his long lost father)
2. Tangerine by Edward Bloor (outcast legally blind soccer player goalie who "sees" the true character of people and places; The setting is also very strange)
3. Novels by Walter Dean Myers such as Game and Monster - all sports themed fiction
To encourage non readers to develop a love of reading (can you believe it, my Zoe isn't all that into reading, either), we try to make it as relevant to them as possible. If he likes sports, then maybe fiction about sports would peak his interest in reading novels at higher level. 

Another thing: I wouldn't discourage Cole from reading nonfiction about sports if that's what interests him even though they're not Accelerated Reader books if it gets him to read. BUT!!! I would give him recommendations based on his interest so that we can get him reading above grade level novels. 

I also love reading aloud and reading with kids, even at middle school level. I find that when I read just a portion of it, it peaks their interest enough that they would want to read more on their own. This is so because I use the characters' choices and actions and pose "what if" open ended questions as conversation starters with them to get them relating to the story. Hence, the relevance. This is also a great way to teach life lessons through literature when you remind them that the choices characters make influence consequences, which then leads to wonderful discussions about their own moral values. 

I don't know if Cole would be open to having you as his mother read aloud a book to him, but I bet if you get an older brother to do it with him, he'd play along, and I can just imagine the four brothers debating about stuff together at home. LOVE! 

Active, athletic children who are gifted can't really sit still for long periods of time, so reading can get somewhat boring to them. Devyn and I can transport our entire beings into books and not even breathe or look up for a minute, but Zoe has to be moving around. I imagine Cole to be the same way. He's capable of reading well, but would rather not. Zoe also loves nonfiction (and not above grade level) books and would prefer lots of pictures over words.
I did finally get her to pick up Judy Blume books. I happened to mention that I had a friend from high school whose job was to read YA books and interview the authors for her articles. She was impressed by that, so she started scanning bookstores and libraries for Judy Blume books. 
It was trial and error. She knew during the summer if I ever take her out anywhere, we'd have to stop by a bookstore or the library for Mommy's happy place. She had no choice. HAHA.
I hope this helps! Good luck, and have a great new school year! Thanks so much for asking me for tips. You know how much I love this. 



Post a Comment