My biggest piece of advice to a homeschooler, or really to any parent in general, is to have their kids read and read a lot.
Learning to read and comprehend all the words out there is such an important skill that translates to all areas of life. The love of reading leads to so many good things!
But, what if you have a kid who doesn’t like to read? Has zero interest in books??
I know, the horror.
I get sad thinking that there are children out there like that and all that they are missing out on. 🙁
I had one kid who just took his merry old time learning to read and learning to love reading. It almost did me in having a kid who didn’t like to read. Are you related to me? Where have I gone wrong? I begged, I prayed, I cajoled. He lived in a very literature-rich and reading-centric home and yet I couldn’t get that fire lit.
I ended up having to wait, in his situation it was a matter of developmental readiness. He just needed time. But there are a few things you can do while you wait for your kids to develop an appetite for reading.
1. Model the love of reading.
If kids don’t like school and they associate “reading” with “school”, they will have a negative impression of reading. Let your kids see you reading and tell them why you’re reading. Hopefully, you can answer that you’re reading for fun and you’re really enjoying the story. Or maybe you’re preparing for a project at work and you need more information. Message: Reading is something people do for fun.
Bonus: Do you know there was a study done that showed a student’s success in higher education being related to how many books the student’s family owned? Not how many books the kids had read, but how many books were literally in his house. That’s crazy! But I think the connection has to do with a family culture that values education and literacy. It’s contagious 🙂 So go ahead and buy more books, it’s good for your kids!
2. Keep looking for the right book.
They say there’s no such thing as a kid who doesn’t like reading, just a kid who hasn’t found the right book. Take them to the library often or browse the e-book collection together. It might take some time for your child to find something that piques his interest. If all he wants are books with pictures, fine. Or if he only wants to read fantasy stories about dragons, great. Keep him reading. Just like with food preferences, his reading palette will broaden as he gets older. Nothing wrong with encouraging your kids with books you think they’d like, either. Talk about your favorite books the way you’d talk about your favorite restaurants. Oooh I want to go there!
Shameless plug: My daughter J.C. has a book review blog with hundreds of books that she has read and reviewed if you need some good ideas! (she was not the one who struggled with reading, oh quite the opposite 😂!!) She rates them according to age-appropriateness, genre, and Christian worldview.
3. Read aloud.
Start as young as possible reading aloud to your kids! Or if they aren’t used to being read to, start in 15 minutes increments and work your way up. (Our family has been known to have 3+ hour read aloud marathons when we’re in the middle of an intense book!) Sarah over at Read Aloud Revival has great lists of books that make great read-alouds. You can even find a book that will be enjoyable for the whole family, mom and dad included! Not only does it help their academic skills, but it also helps family bonding.
My kids enjoyed read-alouds more when they were allowed to do quiet, fine-motor activities like coloring pages, legos, or puzzles, while they listened. They have told me they remember a story better when their hands were busy.
4. Try audiobooks!
If your child struggles with the reading skills needed to get through a novel, it doesn’t mean his brain can’t understand and appreciate a complex story. Hearing well-written stories will help him develop good sentence structure and learn new vocabulary without having to worry about sounding out big words. You can get audiobook downloads on Amazon and your public library website, or get books on CD if you prefer 🙂 Most libraries also can loan you devices called “Playaways” if your kid doesn’t have his own listening device; all they need is a pair of headphones! Listening to an audiobook is also a great way to help kids settle down at night before bed. (Unless it’s an unusually gripping story then it might keep them up way past bedtime, sorry!)
5. Don’t kill a book.
My kids tell me this and have convinced me that if you have to do any type of “homework” with a book, it is no longer enjoyable. It is tempting as a homeschooler or parent to make a lesson out of every chapter and book they read. Although I do think reading comprehension is super important, and I personally enjoy a good book discussion, it’s more important that a kid learns to simply enjoy reading than to fill out six worksheets and memorize twenty vocabulary words. Once they enjoy reading, the rest will follow.
And the elephant in the room:
You may have to drastically limit screen time if your kids are struggling with reading. Unfortunately, too much screen time has been shown to hurt a kid’s interest and ability to read well. Screen time activities do not require the kind of attention that deep reading requires. Consider cutting back on screens and gradually reading more to grow their attention spans.