Thursday, July 15, 2010

More than Words: Getting Your Kids to Embrace Summer Reading

Some parents are blessed with kids who love to read. Some of us are not so fortunate.

I never imagined it would be possible for me to produce a child who didn't love to read. I was reading on a fourth grade level when I was in Kindergarten, requiring my mom to meet with the principal, my teacher, and the school librarian to obtain permission for me to check out actual books from the library. My husband Scott skipped Kindergarten and first-grade entirely, jumping straight to second grade where he was reading on an advanced level and correcting his teacher's mistakes.

But then, our son was diagnosed with Developmental Dyspraxia, a condition that has affected his ability to read in much the same way a dyslexic might be impacted. Although he scored an "Exceeds Expectations" on the standardized reading test required for promotion to second grade in Georgia, he just absolutely hates to read because it has never come easy to him. It challenges him in a way he doesn't like.

And I've tried getting him engaged with books on topics he likes from space to reptiles. But every time I ask him to sit down and read, it's a huge battle with him telling me the book is too hard and me yelling at him in frustration that I know he can do it because he's smart and I've seen his reading scores.

So, I decided to go back to ground zero in our efforts. Clearly, my son's confidence is lagging behind his actual abilities. In order to convince him that he knows more than he thinks, we're now working on sight words again. Yesterday we sat and he did 35 sight words for me, only missing one. I couldn't believe the excitement in his face.

My plan is to go through all 200 or so sight words until he feels really confident and then go back to trying to get him to read me actual books. In the meantime, I am reading the first Harry Potter book to him. I also plan to start reading some Lloyd Alexander books to him soon. I've never read them, but someone I know recommended them, suggesting I start one and make him finish it on his own if he likes it. She says she did this with her son when he was eight and that by the end of that year, he was reading on a 10th grade level.

Once we're done with the sight word experiment, I plan to order some grade level I Can Read books. He already has a couple that Scott bought for him when he had to do a book report this year. I think he'll appreciate the idea that he can see they're on his current level and not feel intimidated. I may even trick him by getting him to read one level below his current grade just to get him reading.

How I envy those of you with children who entertain themselves by sitting quietly and reading! And those of you whose children are breezing through chapter books on their own in first grade. Appreciate how lucky you are and try not to judge too harshly those of us who have to make an extra effort to engage our children in what I think is the most pleasurable pastime of all.

*I wrote this blog post while participating in the TwitterMoms blogging program to be eligible to get an "I Can Read!" book. For more information on how you can participate, click here. You can also join in a discussion with other parents about motivating your child to read on