What to do with picky readers
Ah, the picky reader.
- The preschooler who wants you to read [Insert title here]. Again. For the 1,347th time.
- The second grader who will read dinosaur books. ONLY dinosaur books.
- The fourth grader who turns up his nose (or rolls her eyes) when you make a book suggestion at the library.
- The sixth grader who says “no” to reading because it looks too much like homework (and would rather use a screen).
- The spouse who “hates” to read. No reason given.
Do you recognize them? Maybe you have one in your house? It is pretty easy to spot a picky reader, but getting them to expand their reading horizons or just “keep reading” isn’t easy at all. In fact, it can be pretty frustrating.
Hopefully, these tips will take some of the stress and worry out of your way … and open up more time for YOU to enjoy reading.
The Single-Minded Reader
At the beginning when a child gets focused on A book or A topic, we’re excited. They want books! But then, we’ve tired of the character or subject and they aren’t ready to move on. And if we try, well … everyone is unhappy.
- Let them keep reading – without you. Odds are they have memorized the book you have read 200 times – let them read it to the dog or grandma. Even if the dinosaur book has too many words, let them look at the pictures and make up the story.
- Record yourself. Make an audio recording of you reading the beloved book. Great for letting your child follow along while looking at the page.
- Go to the expert! If your child only likes books with trucks, ask the librarian for suggestions of different types of books: nonfiction, fiction, photo-illustrated, etc.
The Moody Reader
Don’t tell them, but this may be the easiest group of readers to Hornswoggle. Defeating the eye rolls, the loud sighs, and … are definitely within your reach.
- Pick an audiobook – something with adventure and suspense. Driving to a soccer tournament? Start the audiobook. When you hear the moans, say you’ll only listen to a chapter or two. Yes, they might want you to turn it off, but they might not! Don’t be surprised if they want to hear more of the book on the way home.
- Consider an audiobook for their mobile device.
- Get graphic. It can be a picture book, graphic novel, fiction or nonfiction, even an old favorite from their childhood. The “appropriate reading level” doesn’t matter. Grab a couple different books and put them in a high-traffic area of the house. [I personally like the coffee table in our family room.] Don’t say a word about them. Then watch how they get picked up and “browsed.”
- Designate family reading time. Not every night, and maybe not for long, but make it a habit. As Rachel Toalson points out in this post about reading aloud with older kids, even preteens value that together time that comes with sharing a book.
The Retrenched Non-Reader
For whatever reason – and those reasons don’t matter – your partner doesn’t like reading. If they’re like my brother, they read for work and to handle the mail and other “adulting,” but pick up a book for fun? No way.
- Let it go. Acknowledge that you wish they enjoyed books and let it go.
- Have a conversation. Ask your spouse why they don’t like to read. It not only helps you understand their perspective, but it can be useful for keeping those experiences out of your home.
- Point out other ways they can help you demonstrate that reading is important.
The Big Don’t!
The goal is to create a positive reading environment and experience for your kids. Most people who say they don’t like to read also report that felt like reading was a chore. In other words: they felt pressured.
Skip the clock watching and tear up the reading log. Removing the carrot-and-stick and rewards programs will prove more beneficial in the long run.
Got other suggestions for helping picky readers? We’d love to hear them.