Archive for the ‘Reluctant readers’ Category

Why is your “reluctant reader” reluctant to read?

December 6, 2012

Most parents understandably assume that the reason their son or daughter is reluctant to read is because they just haven’t found a book that they like yet. The child’s response appears to back this opinion up. “I didn’t like that book- it was boring”.

Knowing that reading is a big factor in their child’s progress at school parents often try to tempt their reluctant son or daughter with no end of different books, most of which remain unopened in the child’s bedroom. They even buy the latest children’s bestsellers and can’t understand why their child finds them boring when other  readers are loving them. The conclusion they often reach is that  their child will never like reading- they just prefer other things.

I would strongly challenge that view. In almost every case, I believe that a child becomes a reluctant reader because they are trying to read texts that are just too difficult for them. A book that a child reads for pleasure needs to be much easier than the book they are capable of reading. If they stumble over only a few words when reading alone they can fail to pick up what is going on in the story and as such will find the book “boring” because they don’t actually know what’s going on.

As a teacher, I often read books to whole classes of children (right up to the age of 11). Before I get to work on the reluctant readers (typically between 4 and 10 in any class of 30 children) I read a book to the whole class, one that is suitable for their age group. I very rarely have a child who says they haven’t enjoyed a  story I have read- often story time is the most popular time of the day. The difference is that the children are not struggling to read the book, they are free to enjoy the story. If you are the parent or teacher of a reluctant reader, try them with something suited to their age group but that is easy to read. I think you may be surprised at how this will entice them into the world of books. If you want to know which level your child is comfortable reading, try them with the varying difficulties of text on our “Reading Levels” page on our main website, Hummingbird Books.

Sometimes when I go to my local library to look at the latest children’s books  I hear parents say things like “Oh, don’t have that one, that’s a bit easy for you” and I just want to say “No, let her have that one- in fact get lots more like that and you will be giving your child a precious gift – the love of reading.”

In addition, many of my fellow teachers have the view that a child should be challenged in the books they are reading with ever harder vocabulary. I would suggest that the child will tend to push themselves on as their love of reading grows. A radical view, maybe, but I have tried going back several stages with children so many times now and it seems to work in virtually every case. The only children it hasn’t worked with are those that have become so de-motivated by the process of trying to enjoy books that they just can’t get over the hurdle that makes them think they dislike books –  maybe 1 or 2% of children. If you have a child like this, you could always try our reluctant readers’ scheme, a one-to-one telephone advisory service for parents that carries a unique money back guarantee if you are dissatisfied with the results. Why not treat yourself for Christmas and give your child one of the greatest gifts of all- the love of reading?

Our recent reading study

September 18, 2012

The results of our recent reading study looking at how to get children reading for pleasure, have far exceeded our expectations (and, it seems, those of the children’s parents!). You may remember that we wanted to see whether the simple step by step programme we had designed, could get children who were reluctant readers, to read for pleasure . The second aim was to refine the programme by testing which strategies worked best with children.

Many parents and teachers end up tearing their hair out because they have a child who “doesn’t like books”. They try every type of book, on all sorts of subjects from animals to horse riding and football to dinosaurs in space. Nothing works! “This child clearly does not like books- they’d rather be out playing football or watching TV.” is what we frequently hear from parents. After months and sometimes even years of trying, you can understand why both parents and teachers feel this way. However, we challenge this view very strongly. Our findings have been that it is rarely because they don’t like books (how many children don’t like having a book read to them?) it is because the ones they are being given are too difficult, even if they are books designed for children of their age. Sure, they can often read most of the words, but a book needs to be at a considerably lower reading level than the child can actually read, to ensure that they understand the story and that it isn’t hard work. How many adults enjoy a book that is hard work when they’re reading for pleasure?

In addition, a book needs to be a really good one. In these days of copious reviews, for everything from washing machines to hotels and, of course books, it is indeed a brave person who will choose to buy a book that only has a 2* rating. That is why every book that we used on our study was one that had been previously recommended by children as being a really good 5* story.

Here are some of the comments made by parents whose chidren took part in the reading study. Most were 7 or 8 years old, but the final review comes from the mother of a 10 year old girl who is severely dyslexic.

“I would like to thank you so much for the help you gave James.  He has progressed in such a short time from a boy who wouldn’t read even small stories to himself , to one who is now enjoying reading children’s chapter books on his own. He has always enjoyed Maths, and now I can see his love of reading developing too.  This will only increase as he experiences more and more of what the children’s book world has to offer!  His favourites are Dirty Bertie and Secret Seven!  On the journey you set him, he definitely enjoyed the Greek myths!  Thank you so much once again.

” I can’t praise your reading scheme enough. My 8 year old daughter who found reading an uphill battle now wants to read and look up the meaning of words in the dictionary. She even has the confidence to read out loud in front of her friends. By going back one step, her reading ability has jumped three steps forward. Many thanks for your time and advice. A happy mum.”

From the mother of a severely dyslexic 10 year old. When she started the programme, she was not reading at all to herself. She stayed on the programme for a few weeks longer than the 6 weeks (2 months in all) because we could see she was about to launch into books in a big way.

“Louise is on her 3rd Jake Cake book; she loves them! She is on book 6 of the library reading challenge- I can’t believe it!”

For any of our blog followers wishing to try our programme for themselves, please see click on the following link which gives details of how you and your child can take part. The programme is suitable for children aged between 7 and 11 who have a minimum reading age of 6 years 6 months.

Why wait? Get your reluctant reader reading today.

Reluctant readers getting excited about reading

April 9, 2012

Books for 8 year olds.We’ve started all the readers in our study with books that are easier for them to read than they are currently reading at school and from what parents are telling us, that approach is really working. In addition to books that are easy to read, the size of the text (quite large) is important, as is the addition of pictures.

One Mum, whose 8 year old daughter is on our study, asked why her daughter  liked the Puddle Lane books so much and she replied that it was because she liked the pictures. The pictures in the Puddle Lane books are, perhaps, unusual in that they are in colour and there are lots of them. Children just starting to read alone still rely quite a lot on pictures to help them to understand and visualise the story, so we always try to suggest books with them in. For details of the books we are using on our study, see our previous post.

Some of the children and parents have found that it was just a matter of finding a few easy to read books and that that has been enough to spark their child’s enthusiasm for reading alone. Where this is the case, it is important to keep them on that same reading level for quite a while so that their enthusiasm is maintained, finding lots of good books at that level. We tend to find that the child moves themselves on gradually when they are ready for something more difficult.

If you are following our study and trying it for yourselves at home, your child will be reading to you for 15 minutes a day. Even if they seem to be coping with a book and seem keen to take it off to read for themselves, it is still important that you have the child reading to you so that you can see whether they are reading it correctly and afterwards just briefly check whether they understand what they have just read, by asking something like “So, why did Tom go off to the park then?” Don’t make a big deal of it, but if they don’t understand what they have just read, they won’t enjoy reading for themselves. A lack of comprehension may indicate that the book is still too difficult for them, at which point it might be a good idea to find something easier.

Just occasionally children get so stewed up about reading out loud, that they cannot concentrate on the story. If you suspect this is the case 1) get your child to read to you to ensure they can actually read the words 2) let them read a page or two to themselves and then check they have understood the story. If they do understand, then you can probably let them read alone straightaway.

Picture by GraceFamily at Flickr

Our pilot study “Encouraging 7 and 8 year olds to read for pleasure”

March 29, 2012

Next week sees the start of our reading study which aims to test which are the best strategies to get 7 and 8 year old children reading to themselves.Children who read for pleasure tend to do better in school than those who don’t and if they never pick up a book to help reinforce the reading process, it can cause problems trying to access the rest of the curriculum after the age of 11 because their reading skills are just not good enough.

The aim of this study is to test our simple step by step programme that parents can use with their child to encourage a love of reading.

This is a good age to get them reading on their own. It helps to reinforce the “learning to read” process, as well as helping them to really enjoy stories so that they find out just how enjoyable reading is and that reading is not just something you do day after day at school with some rather uninteresting school reading book.

Feel free to follow us over the next few weeks via this blog and maybe try the strategies yourselves.A brief outline of how it will work together with a list of the books we will be using is detailed on our next blog post  if you would like to have a go at home.

Happy reading- we hope you’ll enjoy this as much as the children!

Picture credit: John-Morgan at Flickr

Getting your struggling 8 year old reader to read for pleasure

February 28, 2012

How do you get your young struggling reader (aged 7-8) to read for pleasure? We know that the more children read for pleasure, the more quickly their reading skills will improve.

What we have found is that guiding children towards easier books that are not a struggle means they can devote all their time to just enjoying the story.These aren’t the reading scheme books, they’re just story books or factual books completely separate to the reading scheme.  Parents can really help with this, working on easier books with their children at home, so that they are not seen reading books that are too much easier than those their peers are reading, in order to preserve their self esteem. We are already seeing the benefits in one school where we are trying this. After just 3 weeks,these children are starting to enjoy books for pleasure.We asked one 8 year old on the programme “So, are you quite enjoying that book, then?” “No,” he said “I’m not quite enjoying it, I’m really enjoying it”.If we can engage all our readers with books for pleasure, we will be helping them enormously.

These books for 7-8 year old struggling readers   are published by Usborne and can be found by clicking on the link.

More for those reluctant boy readers

January 31, 2012

So, they’ve read “The Diary of a Wimpy Kid”. They’ve read the “Tom Gates” books. Perhaps you’re gaining a bit of momentum with your “slightly keen” reader. So what next? The  new kid on the block joining these other hapless heroes is  “Big Nate”.  Although they have only just come out in book format, Big Nate stories  were the original inspiration for the “Wimpy Kid ” books, when they were previously published as a newspaper comic strip.

The books are a combination of simple text and comic strips and seem to be very popular with boys, particularly in Years 5 and 6. Some of you reading this may be worried that all these books are just too simple. But if we’re encouraging them to love books, does it really matter? At least they’re not saying “I hate books”, which often seems to be the case with the “less keen” reader. So, back to “Big Nate” He believes he’s destined for greatness (a fortune cookie told him so). He’s the original rebel without a clue who muddles his way through life battling over zealous teachers, mediocre school lunches and trying not to conform. Huge fun! Why not buy them one and get them on the first rung of the ” loving reading” ladder.

These books are at sapphire reading level.

Reluctant readers

March 30, 2011

We’ve just started a section for reluctant readers as so many people seem to have a problem getting their children off the starting blocks. Once they do get going, they often don’t need too much encouragement to read the next book. One of the best series I have found recently, that are great for getting reluctant readers going is the Jake Cake series, suitable for children aged between 8 and 10 and equally loved by both boys and girls.You can find them here. If you have older children who have not quite found their feet with reading yet, Barrington Stoke have a number of really exciting stories which are suitable for10-14 year olds but have a reading age which is much lower than the child’s chronological age.These books can be found in our “Easy to read” sections, to which we are adding new books all the time.

The Diary of a Wimpy Kid series seems to have captured the interest of a lot of children recently and although suited best to children in the Year 5 and 6 age range, both younger and older readers seem to be enjoying them as well.If you want to take a look inside the book at the actual text (written in comic style format), first click on this link and then on the BUY NOW link.