This is a question that has been asked of me many times throughout my career and it’s really concerning to me when I see the look of frustration and sense of defeat in the eyes of a parent seated right across from me during a Parent-Teacher conference in either my days as a teacher or more recently in my office as the Head of Primary Sector in my current place of employment.
‘We have tried everything,’ they would state, even going so far as to try and force their child to read because they, as parents, realise how important reading is for their child.
The recent advancements in digital technologies, while providing a great deal of benefits in children’s education, has also compounded the difficulties many parents are facing, globally, in encouraging their children to read, after all, a brand new app or video game on one’s tablet filled with amazing graphics and visual stimulation is hard to beat!
We all know that being a proficient reader is a key factor in a child’s future success both at school and in the workforce and as the old adage states….the only way to improve in a skill is to do it over and over again. Reading is no exception.
If you are still following this article then it’s a sure bet that you know of a child who doesn’t like to spend time reading.
So how do we turn the tables on this pressing and often emotionally painful situation?
Here are some tips taken from past experience with students for you to consider:
1. As a parent we all like to believe that our children are perfect in every way and that they will excel in life. That is a wonderful assumption but for many children this is not the case. This does not mean that it’s the end of the world, throw in the towel or worse yet, stick your head in the sand and pretend that nothing is wrong. What it does mean is that if your son or daughter is experiencing difficulties or, as per the gist of this article, doesn’t want to spend time reading, it could mean that they are finding reading hard and need to be supported.
Sadly, there have been situations in my career when the support and advice was not accepted.
It’s sad to recall the few students I have seen grow and struggle through the educational system, in both countries that I have resided in, simply because they did not get all of the help they needed early in their educational development, when it really mattered the most….and the reason the help was not provided….not because it wasn’t available but because of the following state of reasoning….’what would other people think of their child if others knew that he/she wasn’t at par with his/her classmates and had to be taken out for extra reading or remedial lessons!’
Yes, I know that it is hard to believe in 2018 but early in my training and in my career I did come across some parents who felt strongly in this way stating that their child would grow into reading later on in life when they are ready…..Um hello!?! Who are we kidding?
Thankfully, these were cases that were few and far between and the parents who did approach me on this matter where extremely devoted and dedicated to their child’s educational well-being and had no problems acting out on the advice of professionals for the benefit of their son or daughter. It was amazing to see a child’s eyes open in amazement and wonder when he or she was able to open up a book and enjoy reading because the appropriate support was being given.
Tip Number 1 – If you think your child is having difficulties reading, seek out a professional and have your child assessed. There is no shame in this and all it may suggest is that a reading tutor is required or a specialised programme to be put into place to get your child on track. The potential benefits from this kind of support would be huge, the devastating effects later in life even larger if no support were to be provided when needed.
2. It’s 2018 and everyone is fully aware that there is no shortage of extra-curricular opportunities for our children to participate in after school. Many of us who grew up in the 60s, 70s and 80s were not privy to the same buffet of activities to do after school. For many of us after school activities involved going home, eating supper, getting one’s homework finished, perhaps one learned a musical instrument or attended a ballet lesson or sporting club that had to be attended to and when allowed, to play outside with the neighbourhood kids – just be home when the street lights are on which was terrible in the winter time due to the shorter days.
Today’s children hop from one activity to another on a daily basis. Parents are ferrying their children to as many after-school activities as they can to keep their kids occupied while they themselves try to finish a report or other task-orientated assignment for work or more often than not, due to a belief that because they didn’t have these opportunities when they were young they want to make sure their child or children get the most opportunities. Then children are rushed home, they wolf down a quick supper and try to complete their homework at 7pm in the evening for which they’re already too exhausted to do from all of the day’s activities. Time for reading……hmmmm don’t go there Brian.
I have seen it time and time again and heard it very often. Parents of today, clearly want to give every opportunity for their children that they did not have growing up for a number of reasons. I think we all agree that this is admirable, but how sustainable is it? When does burnout for the child and the parent set in? There is no easy fix to this because life has become more demanding but I think that we need to slow down the pace for just a bit and reassess how and what we are doing to our children and ourselves. Does a child need to attend an afterschool activity EVERY single day? Will it really be detrimental to the child’s development if he or she doesn’t participate in a plethora of skill developing activities whatever the discipline? If we were to provide some time and space for children to be children and to give them some room in their schedule to simply spend a few minutes with a book that interests them then the doors to creativity, imagination and even problem-solving skills, all three of which are going to be so important in the coming years can be given the opportunity to develop and flourish.
Tip Number 2 – Slow things down a little bit in your family life and provide time for your child to simply enjoy being with a book that interests him/her without any pressure.
3. Children mimic what they see. This statement ties in deeply to the thoughts in Tip Number 2. We as adults are very influential in a child’s development, whether as a parent or as an educator. If they see us stressed out, they’ll feel stressed out. If they see adults communicating and collaborating, they will do the same with their friends. If they see us read…..do you get the idea?
‘Mr. Brian I don’t have the time to sit down and read. I’m lucky to even find some time to go to the bathroom or have something to eat!’ Ah if I had a quarter for each time I heard this statement....
Yes, life is busy. Yes, there are more and more demands on our time and Yes, it appears to be impossible to find some time to stop and read but have we really looked deep and hard into our daily schedules and tried to analyse what can be tweaked or modified? Have we become so victimised by the daily grind of life that we, the dominant species of the planet, are unable to take back some control?
I think we can and I think it is high time that something is done about it which leads into my final tip of this article…
Tip Number 3 – Make time to stop and read in the presence of your children. They will see you and over time begin to emulate what you are doing.
I recently began listening to a very inspirational speaker by the name of Mr. Jim Fortin who is all about Neuro Persuasion and while the particular interview did not cover anything pertaining to children or their reading habits, he did say something that caught my attention and resonated with me. In the interview he stated that in order to change our patterns of being we need three things – Commitment, Responsibility and being Self-Integral.
Let’s connect these three to tip number 3.
You appreciate and understand that reading is an important and integral part of your child’s educational development….
Can you commit yourself to spending 10 – 15 minutes on 2 or 3 days of the week to sitting down and reading alongside or to your child and stay committed to doing so, especially when you know that it will be so beneficial to your child?
Can you be responsible enough to take action on this commitment and read alongside or to your child, especially when you know that it will be so beneficial to your child?
Can you be self-integral and stick to your commitment of reading alongside or to your child, especially when you know that it will be so beneficial to your child?
I’d like to believe that we all have to potential to do this and that we can adjust our mind-set to make the necessary modifications to our busy lifestyle not only for our children but for ourselves too.
I would love to learn what you think about this article. Do you agree? Disagree? Would you like to add on to what I have suggested?
While we are all on this planet for a reason we are never too old to learn, myself included.
I hope you have enjoyed reading this article and have taken something from it to ponder and consider and if it has, why not share it with others and let them know about the Children’s Reading – Tip and Advice Facebook page it might just help another parent with a child who doesn’t want to read.