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The Parent ’Hood: Help a child learn to love reading

Your 10-year-old daughter refuses to read for pleasure. Will she outgrow this?

Parent advice:

Yes. This is a total Do Not Sweat It. She will. I did.

– Ellen Warren

She may or may not. But putting too much stress on her now will only make the activity less appealing. I would share with her my own love of reading and tell her about books or magazines that I particularly enjoy. Perhaps she will try this on her own if enough interest is sparked.

– Dodie Hofstetter

She might. Just don’t overreact and don’t push it. Maybe be “caught” reading a book on a theme you both like – horses, seashells, cupcakes – and leave it out on the table or couch? I’d say the bigger the book, the more photos or graphics, the better to “lead” her in to making pleasure reading a practice. Not that you’re going to ever admit that, right?

– Bill Daley

Expert advice:

“Nobody likes to do things for pleasure that they’re not good at,” said Gabrielle Miller, executive director of Raising a Reader, a national program aimed at increasing literacy skills in elementary-age children. “It could be that it’s not enjoyable because she’s working to decode everything.”

If her teachers and grades indicate she’s reading at her grade level without struggle, it’s time to help make reading come alive for her, Miller said.

“There are things parents can do with a child – read the comics, have the child read to the family dog – that make reading more fun,” she said. “Sometimes, parents cringe at books that tie in to something their kids saw on TV, but kids like them.”

The specific material isn’t as important as inspiring excitement and confidence around reading.

Do a little sleuthing on your own to see what kind of stories or topics might spark your child’s interest and bring home appropriate books or magazines from the library.

“It may not just be a parent handing the child a book to read, but spending time with the child in a way that relates to the book,” Miller said. “My husband loved the ‘My Side of the Mountain’ books, so he would read those with our boys and do something with them in the yard that tied back to the book.”

Pay attention to your own habits as well.

“Start a positive routine, where they see you turn off the TV and sit down to read,” Miller said.

Above all, be patient.

“Parents shouldn’t beat themselves up if it takes a while,” she said. “But keep trying because it’s never too late.”

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