Q. My daughter Emily is 10 years old and doesn’t like to read. Emily’s mother also avoids reading and says she doesn’t like to read. I tried to encourage Emily to read by taking her to the library to check out a book. She kept procrastinating and then lost the book just before it was due. I can’t understand not loving books. Do you have any suggestions on motivating my daughter to read?
A. Children are like little “copy cats,” watching and copying what parents do. Children of parents who model the enjoyment of reading are more apt to love reading. Parents who say they hate reading and allow their children to avoid reading are shutting a door to success for their child. It would be wonderful if your wife could be a reading role model for your daughter but even if she won’t, you can model your love of reading. You can also do a variety of other things to encourage Emily to become a reader.
Read in parallel. See if Emily would like to pick a book you can read and discuss together. You can check for appropriateness of books and find good discussion questions at commonsensemedia.org. You can find reading lists and more at goodreads.com. Or check the Texas Library Association’s book lists at txla.org/reading-lists.
Try an e-book. Perhaps an iPad or other e-reader will spark your daughter’s interest. Our public libraries have a large selection of e-books suitable for children of all ages. But before you buy an e-reader, see if you can borrow one from a friend. That way, you can return it if Emily doesn’t take to it.
Browse a bookstore. Take Emily to a bookstore to browse. The large number and variety of books and magazines might provide Emily with a subject that fascinates her. Let her take the lead. Encourage your daughter to be curious and to read about things she is curious about.
Let her plan an outing researching places to go and things to do. Encourage a hobby or interest and to read to learn about it. Ask her to join a book club or help her organize a new one, including inviting her friends, choosing the book and writing the discussion questions.
Consider a tutor. Emily might need some help with her reading skills. We used to think that by the fourth grade, most children had stopped learning to read and started reading to learn. But new research shows that even children in fifth grade and beyond are still perfecting the skill. (See time.com/3015497/learn-to-read-past-fourth-grade.)
Encourage reading year-round. It is important for Emily to read during school breaks and summer vacation. Teachers tell me that not only do kids get behind if they don’t read in the summer, but they don’t catch up with kids who do. Reading ability has everything to do with success in school and life.Children must read in order to understand math problems, study foreign languages, follow a recipe and learn the rules of sports. “Reading skills are the best indicator of current and future student success,” says the website of the National Association of Secondary School Principals. “A recent study indicates that reading skills are the best predictor of future success and earning power.” These are just a few ideas for getting Emily to read. I’m sure this list will inspire you to come up with even more. I feel certain you will succeed in supporting your daughter to become a lifelong reader.
Dr. Betty Richardson, Ph.D., R.N.C., L.P.C., L.M.F.T., is an Austin-based psychotherapist who specializes in dealing with the problems of children, adolescents and parents.
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