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How to Raise a Reader

If your child squirms at the sight of a book or claims to “hate reading” — whether due to dyslexia, ADHD, or just standard reluctance — check out these 6 strategies for making books an adventure for life (even for reluctant readers).

Fostering a love of reading benefits our children in myriad ways, both at home and at school. We start by reading board books and chasing our children around toddler programs at the library. We move on to reading pictures and sounding out phonetics. We invest our time and patience knowing that our efforts will pay off in the end.

Studies have shown that avid reading has a remarkable impact on kids’ learning and academic performance. It enhances study habits and improves linguistic skills, vocabulary, comprehension, analytical thinking and writing. Equally important are the other, lesser-known benefits that strong readers also experience. Reading reduces stress and strengthens memory, which has implications beyond the classroom. With such benefits, reading at home should definitely be part of the regular routine.

But what if you have a reluctant reader? For many children, including those diagnosed with attention deficit disorder (ADHD or ADD), the idea of sitting down to quietly read a book is unrealistic. These children crave action and multisensory stimulation, which independent reading does not traditionally lend itself to providing. What to do?

There are actually a lot of great ways to engage your children with books and inspire them to seek new adventures on the written page. It just may take a little more effort on your part to set the scene and bring the words to life. Are you ready to raise a reader?

Turn nightly reading into an adventure by making it something that your family looks forward to doing together. Create a “special spot” for reading, such as a fort or comfy cove in the family room. Get your energetic children in on the action by allowing them to help construct and decorate the reading area. Be sure to include pillows, blankets, and stuffed animals to make it extra cozy. Bring flashlights and something healthy to nibble on while the family reads together. Take turns reading aloud — and don’t forget to get into character!

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Keep reading time consistent. Whether you are reading nightly or weekly, be sure to maintain the routine. Reading each night or weekend can be a quick, 20-minute activity, but keeping to the schedule builds a sense of anticipation. The key is to keep it enjoyable, not laborious.

Casually ask questions before, during, and after reading. This should not take the form of a tough question-and-answer session. The book talk should seem just like a casual conversation in which the family discusses interesting aspects of the story. This also gives your child a chance to interject thoughts and ideas throughout the session, breaking up the period of time spent passively listening.

Have a cause for celebration or a reward? Treat your children with a trip to the library or bookstore. Allow him to select any book of his choice as a means of rewarding good behavior, hard work at school, or helping out around the house. Reading as a reward is a great way to associate reading with something pleasurable or gratifying. Also, seeing which books your child selects will give you insights into his emerging interests and developing reading skills.

Read your child’s book ahead of time. Mark up the story with your own comments, cartoons, or questions. As she starts the book, she will have your special messages to build inquiry from page to page. These little notes are also a great way to introduce children to annotating and note-taking as a close reading strategy.

Take the books on the road with tablets, iPads, or audiobooks. eBooks make it possible to incorporate reading wherever the family goes. These technologies can be especially handy during long road trips or flights. Have your children discuss their books with the family as they finish a chapter. You can also set reading goals for the family vacation—something such as each person trying to finish a selected book before returning home.

For older kids and teens, motivate with an added incentive for finishing a novel. If your teen has finished one of the Harry Potter novels, rent the movie for him to enjoy. Then chat about which was better—the book or the movie? Finish the whole series? Plan a Harry Potter themed family dinner, complete with butter beer and boogie-flavored jellybeans. OK, maybe not!

Whether you are looking to challenge an avid reader or motivate a reluctant one, these tips can instill a love of reading that will last a lifetime. With summer just around the corner, start planning now to make new adventures that pop right off the page!

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