Science-backed Tips to Reach Reluctant Readers
A solid set of reading skills can make a massive difference in a student’s academic journey. While some seem to fall in love with the written word from a very early age, others develop a resistance to reading that is difficult to overcome. If you’re concerned about your child’s reading abilities, there are plenty of solutions available. New science-backed methods are emerging to address the difficulties and barriers faced by reading-reluctant students.
The Importance of Reading
Students who lack proper reading skills struggle in virtually all academic subjects, including STEM-related fields. Science students must have the ability to read textbooks, online labs, and absorb complicated information. Math students must solve word problems. Business students must go over case studies of successful companies. Almost all tests and quizzes include written instructions that students must clearly understand in order to perform at their full potential.
Students also need to be able to understand what they read and be prepared to write about it. Even when school years have become a distant memory for students, their reading skills continue to impact their potential for career advancement and life enrichment.
How To Support Reluctant Readers
1. Assess the reading level
The first step is to accurately assess your child’s reading level. How much work needs to be done before your child develops an appropriate set of reading skills based on their grade level? For example, you could determine how many words per minute your child reads in relation to their grade requirement.
2. Know your child’s interests
It’s also important to figure out what your child actually wants to read. The most effective approach for reluctant readers is to make the process fun and enjoyable. Figure out your child’s interests, and they’ll be more inclined to read about topics that actually motivate and inspire them. Maybe your daughter is crazy about puppies - so why not get her motivated with books about how to take care of dogs?
3. Determine your child’s learning style
Another important step is to determine your child’s learning style. Your child can take special quizzes that help identify their learning style, or you can make educated guesses based on their interests and personality traits. In an average classroom, teachers can’t personalize their methods based on each individual student.
At home, supplemental reading activities allow for a customized, targeted approach based on your child’s learning style. For example, your child might be a kinesthetic learner who processes information most effectively through tactile activities. Such a learner might process information more effectively by creating finger puppets and “acting out” plays while reading.
Catering to a child’s learning style can make a massive difference. Many students are fully capable of reading - they’re just not being taught in a way that takes their unique learning style into account.
4. The Importance of Intrinsic Motivation
Intrinsic motivation is another important concept to consider when approaching reluctant readers. This is the idea that activities can be intrinsically rewarding. Don’t just encourage your child to get better grades or achieve a higher reading level - teach them that reading can be a massive source of enjoyment! Reading can provide children with an amazing escape into fantastical worlds filled with adventure and magic. The joy they feel from exploring their reading abilities is the real goal here - not the feeling of accomplishment or relief after getting good grades in school.
The psychological science of reading can provide us with many solutions for reluctant readers. For example, studies have shown that boys tend to lag behind girls when developing the language centers of their brains. There is also evidence that an older male role model can help motivate young boys to read.
Three Alternative Ways to Practise Reading Out-loud
The most common approach to reading instruction today is something called “Round Robin” reading. This is when children in a classroom take turns reading in front of a teacher. Evidence shows that this method can stigmatize poor readers, weaken comprehension, and reduce pronunciation skills. Here are some promising alternatives you can try at home:
Partner Reading: Siblings or friends pair up and take turns reading. This prevents poor readers from being humiliated in front of the class, and it allows stronger readers to help those who are struggling.
Echo Reading: Students “echo” the words of the parent who has just read a paragraph - including their pronunciation and inflections.
Reading Games: Many teachers and parents have invented their own reading games to help reluctant readers. Remember, the overall goal is to make reading fun.
Building on the Foundation
Routine, repetition, and choice are important for continuing motivation and inspiration among young readers. Monster Education provides a range of language arts-related reading modules that are specifically designed to help emerging readers such as “Read with a Beat”. Reading confidence can also be boosted by practising public speaking skills through Stand Up Comedy and other imaginative activities. Remember, help is always available for reluctant readers. Visit Monster Education classes today and explore your options.
Eventually, the goal is to encourage the child to engage in independent reading as they discover the magic of reading on their own and explore brand new worlds with interesting novels.
Andrew K. Block, MA works for a global EdTech company. He taught composition, literature, and professional writing in community colleges for more than a decade after graduate school. He received his BA in English from the University of South Carolina and his MA in English Literature from the University of New Mexico. He enjoys writing about education, culture, books, and technology.