If a child doesn’t like to read, sometimes it can be useful to remember how this child started reading. Were they self-motivated, starting to read because of curiosity and interest? Could the child suddenly read, almost overnight? Or, did somebody sit down with the child, and teach them how to read step by step?

If children start reading fueled by their own interest, it is relatively easy to reawaken the joy of reading now. If, however, a child has learned to read in laborious work mode, perhaps even reading to the child now is arduous and exhausting. It is more difficult to raise self-initiative, and bring joy to reading, where there is a  history of difficulty. In these cases, it is sometimes better not to pressure the child, who might need time for healing.

In fact, the natural and joyful way to learn reading is not connected to pressure but develops from self- initiative, often at age of three, four and five years. If the child’s natural rhythm is respected, one can expect another “reading boost,”  at the age of ten and eleven years, when abstract thinking at a higher level is being developed.

Kindling, inspiring, and evoking a genuine need and love for reading is the most effective and sustainable way to get children to read. Many children learn to read because they want to understand TV programs.

A joint trip to the library can be very helpful; let your child pick out a book to check out at the desk. Take time to listen to the child reading. One could also record or film the child while reading, they might have fun watching themselves.

Also consider that writing sometimes proceeds reading and leads to reading. Perhaps write a shopping list together, or a birthday card to a friend or relative. You could label the objects of daily life, offer written instructions for crafting, or cooking recipes. And think about everyday situations with children, where you could write a little message, instead of saying or showing it.

Sometimes children like to write letters to mother, friends or vacation acquaintances. Together, parents and children could write a letter to a magazine, start a diary, or a photo album with descriptions. As a mother or father, how about writing stories, or a letter for the child … “Here is something, I’ve written especially for you.”

Here is another fun idea: Gather tiny objects all starting with ‘r’ (or any other letter), for instance rabbit, rug, rose, etc.:

As with almost everything, I vote for inspiring a child, but not pushing too much. The magic of self-motivation is what creates the joy of reading. If reading is connected with too much resistance and negative emotions, then even forcing a child will not help much to improve reading skills. Sometimes children find the joy of reading again in adulthood, after the school years, when they can choose how much and how long they would like to read.

Last but not least, it might be a good idea to simply ask the child why they don’t like to read. Maybe they have eye problems. Maybe they think they should be an instant expert, and need to hear that it is a process.  Maybe they need someone to sit with them and read with them, helping to sound out words, etc. Or they would just rather be doing something else right now. Try to find out what is going on in their mind. Try to make reading be a whole lot of fun. Anyone for Dr. Suess?

I am writing this with the hope that children receive a stronger voice in their learning processes, and that we as adults put more emphasis on the joy of learning.
Carmen Gamper