OMG! My child hates reading!
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By Leah Grisafi
Remember when your sweet and excitable Megan came home and showed you the sight words her kindergarten teacher sent home? She could barely contain herself as she read those short words and you shared her glory with a smile or perhaps a tear. Can you recall the feeling when you watched little Mason read a complex sentence and the expression in his eyes when he realized he was actually reading? Many parents are realizing the excitement and even interest for reading has deteriorated as their child gets older but most cannot fathom why or how to resolve the problem.
It wasn't long ago that Judy Blume books could not be kept on the shelf. Within time, those books were replaced with the Tree House series books, then Harry Potter, and most recently, the Twilight series. With the advancement of the technological age, kids are labeling reading as work and as pointless. It isn't instantly gratifying and the answers have to be read, not googled. By not reading, they are also short-changing their writing skills, preferring short informal sentences (brb = be right back) and use atrocious punctuation and incorrect grammar (john f kennedy; wasn't the 1st President) in order to made a less-than-satisfactory attempt at writing.
Below are some criteria to help parents understand what happens during the schooling years:
KINDERGARTEN TO SECOND GRADE
The state standards emphasize word recognition as well as a heavy emphasis on fictional pieces, including reading and writing. In other words, children are building their vocabulary skills and writing with creativity. Your child will be able to recall "fuzzy, blue butterflies" and write about "fangs as big as semi trucks" with great detail and passion.
THIRD GRADE TO FIFTH GRADE
Teachers have to abide by state standards and implement non-fictional text as well as the introduction of social studies. The social studies units and biographies are heavily embedded in this grade --- most students quickly lose interest in reading at this point. Unless your child has an interest in Marie Curie or the first colonial settlers, you are most likely going to see a significant change in their reading interest.
SIXTH GRADE TO HIGH SCHOOL
Once students enter middle school and high school, they become a traveling student and soon enter the world of reading to understand a topic or theme. Unless that topic or theme is of interest, the child will find reading a chore. Of course, at this point in your child's live, puberty has shown its face so don't be surprised if Brittany doesn't care why White Fang ran away from home or if Jason doesn't wonder why Jupiter doesn't have rings.
What can be done?
If you are noticing your child has already lost interest during the elementary school level, intervene now. As mentioned above, third grade is the magical year to catch your child's reading interest. The best advice would be not to wait until then; if your reader is already lacking intrigue by first or second grade, do something before they text you: reeding is stoopid.
Find out what your child is interested in, whether it is a someone famous, a certain type of animal, a hobby, or some creature that never existed --- invest in that interest! Take them to the library or a book store and let them pick out their book of choice. Most libraries have a list of popular book titles that your child can browse through and select a book that will get them reading. Keep your mouth shut if they pick out a book on exotic snails or cloud formations in the shape of famous people. Remember, this is to get them interested in reading, not you.
Make one day of the week, devoted to just reading as a family. Even if it is just you and your child, reading in front of them will show them reading is fun! Do not worry if you are reading a People magazine or a how-to book, you are showing them that reading is important.
Become interested in what your child is reading or has expressed interest in reading. Ask questions, quiz them, make it an interactive reading session. See if they can predicate what might happen next.
Stay in contact with your child's English or reading teacher. Find out if he or she is reading at the correct reading level; if not, get them tested and intervene before time becomes your enemy.
Reading is a process. Do not expect them to love reading within the first intervention. It took time for them to lose interest; it will take time to regain it back.
About Leah Grisafi: I have been a public school English teacher at the high school level for the past seven years. I have taught grade levels nine through 12, including honors classes, at risk students, and extremely diverse student populations. I hold a bachelor's degree in English and a master's degree in Cross-Cultural Education. My two boys, Jacob- age nine, and Luke- age seven, keep me quite busy with their homework and academic curriculum, as well as extra-curricular sports and Boy Scouts. I have discovered there is a fine balance to being both an educator and a parent of two children enrolled in public schools; patience and flexibility are two key traits I must be able to hold and utilize. When I'm not grading horrific essays or planning for my next unit, I enjoy reading mostly non-fictional pieces, but do occasionally enjoy some well-written fiction. I also love exercising, being in the outdoors, and playing board games with my family.