A New Chapter: Turning Your Non-reader into a Reader [Guest Post]

Fiona IngramWe are excited to ring in 2020 with award-winning author Fiona Ingram! In December, Fiona shared her personal story about becoming an adoptive mom and her journey of creating a bookworm in a child who, when Fiona met her, could not read despite having had several years of school.

‘Tis the season of fresh starts, which makes today a perfect day for Fiona to share some of her ideas for encouraging kids to read and build their skills based on her own experiences.

As all parents know, books, reading, and comprehension skills are paramount in the development of their child’s learning abilities and imagination, and indeed in life learning and understanding of the world. Let’s not rehash that. Instead, let’s answer this question:

How does one change a non-reader into an avid reader?

The short answer is don’t leave it up to school and the teachers. Kids spend more time at home than in school (believe it or not), so don’t lay the burden of your child’s literacy on the school. Literacy is so important that it is every parent’s duty to make sure their child reads and (hopefully) enjoys it.

Although a child can learn to read, enjoyment of reading is not automatic; it is learned by association. When a parent reads with a child, that feeling of togetherness, that special time, creates in the child a sense of enjoyment that they then associate with reading, and thus as they grow up, reading is associated with pleasure.

There may be several reasons why your child isn’t keen on reading. If you’ve ruled out physiological problems with eyes and attention span, then it could just be that your child perceives books as “boring” and reading a chore. How do you change this?

Let them see you reading.

father read booksChildren follow by example so if you’re a reader, make a point of your child seeing you read—except read (with avid interest) something you’d like them to read.

Don’t put the television on as a matter of course. Rather, sit with a book, so they become curious as to what could possibly keep you so occupied.It will be natural for them to want to see (read) what has kept you so captivated.

You can fuel this by exclaiming how much you can’t wait to continue the book if you have to stop what you’re doing to make dinner or other commitments.

Capture the imagination of your child.

You’ve seen how a child will sit for hours working out a game or puzzle that intrigues them. Excitement and interest are the keys to getting your child into those bookshelves. Take a look at what makes them light up, what makes them talk excitedly. You want to hold their attention, sustain their interest, and create a hunger for more and more books!

Choose topics your child is interested in

read together board book… even if it’s Miley Cyrus’ biography. Textbooks or school reading books may not be the spark to ignite your child’s imagination. Your child may also not be interested in the classics you loved as a child. It doesn’t matter what they read, as long as they read.

Age appropriate magazines (get a subscription addressed directly to your child) are also suitable. Collectibles such as ‘part series’ (science, the planets, animals, music/pop stars) are also very good and keep the child’s interest ongoing.

Invite your child to read with you.

“I think you’ll like this!” is a wonderful inducement to make the child feel special—something he or she can share with a parent makes the child feel important. Together you can enjoy the marvelous world contained within those pages.

Your child will find your enthusiasm infectious. You could even let them “help” you with one or two words you might be “struggling” with.

Be innovative.

Just as our children have different personalities, there are different ways to connect with them. For example, reading to each other or acting out the characters’ parts will make it fun (children love acting), and if another parent or enthusiastic family members are the audience, the “cast” must work hard to entertain.

You could spend some time beforehand polishing your skills together, reading alternate paragraphs, or picking particular characters. This is a great moment to show off your Repertoire of Funny Voices as well. Make it more memorable by having a special dinner and getting your child to write out “invitations” to the rest of the family.

Think outside the book.

Print book, that is. Audio books are a wonderful way of helping your child concentrate and develop listening skills while you’re driving. After a few minutes, stop the tape and ask your child questions about what they just heard.

Make it interesting by asking what they think will happen next, or what they would do in a certain situation. This is a fun way to help your child engage in the literary process.

Last but not least, laugh together!

family read together

Shared laughter is an incredibly bonding and uplifting experience.

By now your child should start seeing reading as a fun experience. Later, they will develop their own tastes and read on their own.

Fiona Ingram
I am a children’s author, but up until a few years ago, I was a journalist and editor. Something rather unexpected sparked my new career as an author—a family trip to Egypt with my mother and two young nephews. We had a great time and I thought I’d write them a short story as a different kind of souvenir…. Well, one book and a planned book series later, I had changed careers.

I have now published Book 3 (The Temple of the Crystal Timekeeper) in my middle grade adventure series Chronicles of the Stone, with many awards for the first book, The Secret of the Sacred Scarab, several for Book 2, The Search for the Stone of Excalibur, and Book 3! I also teach online novel writing for aspiring authors and I find that very satisfying.

Relaxation time finds me enjoying something creative or artistic, music, books, theatre or ballet. I love doing research for my book series. I love animals and have written two animal rescue stories. I have two adorable (naughty) little dogs called Chloe and Pumpkin, and a beautiful black cat called Bertie. My involvement with child literacy came about when I fostered and later adopted an underprivileged African child who was illiterate when she came to live with me at age eleven. It has been a fascinating journey.