I started homeschooling our daughter when she was in 3rd grade. She came home from school already reading…and by reading I mean devouring books. I capitalized on her love of reading and searched out literature-based curriculum and created our own lessons based around favorite books.
This love of reading really made for an easy, fun homeschool experience. Four years later, my son came home from a small private school after first grade fully able to read at a fourth grade level. Even though he didn’t read as much on his own as my daughter did, I thought that his sheer reading skill would mean that homeschooling him would be a breeze, as well.
I was wrong.
Homeschooling The Reluctant Reader
Since we had such success with the curriculum and books I had chosen for my daughter, I broke them out for my son. I’ll spare you the details, but imagine wailing and gnashing of teeth from both my son and myself.
The important thing to learn from my experience is that a child can read well above their age level or below and still hate to read. Skill does not endear one to that particular talent. I, also, learned a great thing about homeschooling – the ability to customize curriculum to the student.
So, instead of using the literature-based homeschool curriculum we had used with my book-loving daughter, I searched for resources that were more suited for my reluctant reader. I knew he needed to read to be educated. My goal was to find ways to motivate him to read and to make it enjoyable, or at least tolerable (and without the wailing and gnashing of teeth).
If you are homeschooling your reluctant reader, here are a few tips for motivating them I learned along the way from other homeschool moms and from good old trial and error.
Find What Interests Your Reader
No one likes reading something that is of no interest to them – adult or child. This is especially true of a reluctant reader. Take some time to observe what your child is drawn toward. Ask them questions about what interests them.
For a while, all my son wanted to do was play Minecraft. So, I got him Minecraft based story books. He read them without complaint. I didn’t even pay attention to what reading level they were. All I knew is that he was reading.
After a while, he got bored with Minecraft and moved to something else. I searched for books about the new thing. I found that keeping up with his new interests was key. The books were new and different. It kept the reading from getting boring.
Don’t Pay Attention To Reading Levels
I mentioned this in the section above. When choosing books for your reluctant reader that interests them, don’t get locked into reading levels. It matters more that the child reads period than the level of every single book.
Even though my son was at a 4th grade reading level in 2nd grade, his interests were still at that 2nd grade level. It was hard to find books at his level that appealed to his age. That doesn’t mean I didn’t try and find those higher level books. It just means I wasn’t locked into them.
On the flip side, I have a friend whose son was reading a couple years behind his age level. The books that covered subjects that interested him were often at a higher reading level. She just mixed those higher level books in with lower level books as a challenge. Her son still read them as best as he could, because he was interested in the subject matter.
Have Reading Contests
If your reluctant reader is goal oriented and competitive, reading contests can be an awesome way to get them reading. A couple times a year, we have a reading contest of some sort.
Sometimes, we set individual goals for each child and if they reach it, they get a prize. The prize is usually something they really want like a trip to the trampoline park and then pizza for them and a friend or a new video game.
Other times, I make the children compete against each other and winner takes all. Since the kids are at different reading levels we use minutes read instead of number of books read. During reading time, they each grab a couch and cuddle up with their books. I keep the time and then we discuss their reading when they are done. This helps keep everyone honest.
Add Reading To Curriculum
As I mentioned before, my daughter’s homeschool experience has been mostly literature based. We read our way through history and science. My reluctant reader wants just the facts, so we had to choose different curriculum for him.
However, there were times when I added another resource, such as a biography or a true story about what we were studying, onto the curriculum. For instance, when we studied American History, I could tell my son was interested in people like Daniel Boone and Davy Crockett. He liked the adventurous life they led. So, I added a few action-packed biographies. He read them and he liked them!
My son looked at the books that were added to subjects like history as part of the curriculum and not part of any reading curriculum or extra reading assignments. That mental shift saved us lots of tears.
Choose Books That Are Fun
This might seem like a no brainer, but kids like fun books. Not all reading has to be done from dry chapter books. My son loved comic books, graphic novels, joke books, and giant books of facts. Books with eye-catching images and entertaining text are just more fun to read.
When adding reading to history or science, choose books like DK Eye-Witness books that are known for their amazing imagery that brings the text to life. Look for coffee-table type books with large, gorgeous images with accompanying facts and explanations.
How do you motivate your reluctant reader? Share your best tips with us!