Helping children find books that they are willing to read can sometimes be an arduous task.
My general rule is that very few children step outside of their comfort zone to read something that is unfamiliar to them, and this is especially true for struggling readers. Most children will read books similar to books they have previously read, which are recommended to them by someone they trust, or which they have generally heard about in the media or elsewhere.
Children feel intimidated by the size of a book, the lack of pictures, or the tightness of the words on the page. They are more easily willed into reading a graphic novel than a chapter book. A graphic novel is a fine first step–it makes the size of a book less daunting to a child–but keeping to graphic novels does sometimes delay a child’s transition to chapters altogether.
If this transition into reading full books is slowed by reading problems, a reading clinic might be a helpful solution. If the problem is simply lack of interest, then try to pique that interest. I do this in a number of different ways.
Helping Your Child Become a Reader
I find it important first to determine whether a child is a social or independent reader. Book clubs are a great way to introduce books to children who are naturally social. Techniques for more independent children include book talking–highly recommending a book to a child and giving a short blurb to catch their interest. Some children are motivated by competition; I know a mother who “competes” with her daughter to see who can read a book the fastest.
Another technique is modelling reading by being an enthusiastic reader yourself and sharing that enthusiasm by doing read-alouds with your children. I have seen children, even up to age thirteen, enjoy being read to. When I read The Hobbit to my younger brothers, although I had read only a chapter (or part of a chapter), both of them were later eager to read the (large) book on their own.
It is also important to consider that some children are simply not interested in fiction. To these children, I introduce some great nonfiction books or biographies. I have children who only check-out science books, history or war. These children can progress to novel-like stories with a nonfiction basis.
Your child loves reading!
Once children are readers, they will seek out any good book they can find–using the criteria they know about, which usually has something to do with the theme of the book that they can grasp from the cover image. Encourage your children to go one step further by introducing them to genre to help them make the best reading choices. Let them read reviews online to help them see what others think of a book they are interested in reading.
Of course, get excited about reading and your enthusiasm will be the best encouragement!
Jocelyne Freundorfer is an elementary librarian for three Catholic schools in Canada. She is also a freelance writer and editor of theelementarylibrarian.blogspot.ca.