Does your child shut down when it comes to reading? Do they cry or berate themselves or refuse to do their reading lessons? It may be time to take a break from reading instruction.
The scenario is not uncommon. For a variety of reasons, children can come to resist reading instruction so strongly that a parent has little other choice but to take a break from it.
Some kids have built up so much resistance to doing things that are hard that they automatically shut down when faced with something they perceive is too hard for them.
There is a time when methods and curriculum don’t matter. Kids just need a break from the intensity. Many parents will take a temporary break from reading instruction to relieve this pent-up anxiety.
You could call it a micro deschooling time. Read more about the power of deschooling here.
I talk to lots of parents who see this resistance but fear that taking a break from instruction will make the problem worse. The purpose of taking a break is not only to relieve the stress but also to foster an enjoyment of reading.
Here are some simple things you can do to foster an enjoyment of reading while taking a break from reading instruction.
Read aloud to your kids
So much has been written on the power of reading good literature. Don’t let your child’s reading struggles stop them from hearing excellent literature.
When you read to them, they are building their vocabulary, learning how books work, learning about the world, and most importantly for the shut-down learner, they are learning to enjoy a great story.
How to get started with reading aloud. There are book lists all over the Internet on every kind of book recommendation you could possibly want. You can also ask your librarian for good recommendations. Lastly, if you’re really lost, choose a book that you loved as a child.
All of my kids enjoy it when I read aloud. Even my older kids will come to hang out in the living room when I’m reading. It’s never too late to get started reading aloud to your kids.
Listen to audiobooks.
The benefits of listening to audiobooks are similar to the benefits of reading aloud but your kids can listen at their pace. Some of my kids were voracious book listeners!
Strewing books of interest
Strewing is essentially leaving books (or other resources) around the house for your kids to discover and pick up will. No requirements. No pressure.
Find books of all types at the library on topics of interest to your child and leave them around the living area with no pressure (or expectations) for which if any they choose.
DK Books with lots of images are great for this.
My 9-year-old daughter loved animals and we would get stacks of books from the library. She would pour over them and eventually tried reading them here and there. This low-pressure, interest-led approach made a big impact on her desire and her willingness to learn to read.
Reading graphic novels is another great way to remove pressure from struggling readers. MANY graphic novels are available at the library. I check out a few of the first books from a series and strew them around for my kids to ‘discover’. Book series are great because if they like one they will naturally want to read more and more.
High-Low books (or Hi-Lo books) are books of high interest written at a low reading level. These books can be a real game changer for a child who has experienced a ton of frustration and failure when it comes to reading independently.
When taking a break from formal reading instruction, be mindful of opportunities to read in daily life. Many kids with dyslexia have a strong need to know why they are doing things. They do not easily comply with meaningless tasks. So if they don’t see the purpose behind painstakingly learning all the rules of reading, they will naturally be more resistant. Paying attention to everyday opportunities to read can kindle an appreciation for the need to read and eventually a desire to pursue that skill.
Places to find everyday reading:
- Games and video games
- Magazines of interest
- Signs of all kinds
Look for a variety of ways to include reading in your day-to-day life with no pressure. Soon your child will forget that they don’t like reading, their brains will mature, and they will be more interested in learning to read.
When to hire a tutor
None of my kids resisted learning to read. They all seemed to enjoy working with me. They resisted plenty of other things though! We still hired a tutor for a few of our kids and here’s why:
An older child still struggling.
If your child is older (say 6th grade or older) and still struggling quite a bit I would at least consider finding an experienced dyslexia tutor to work with them to help them. This is not etched in stone; it depends on your child and finances. A tutor can be a lifeline to getting kids to try. But if they are resisting even with a tutor – back off.
Teaching reading is causing too much tension in your relationship.
Sometimes when there is a lot of tension between parent and child, a break is enough to solve the problem. In some cases, however, it may be better to find an experienced dyslexia tutor to remove that burden. Kids will often tolerate learning from a stranger better than from a parent.
A word of encouragement for parents of struggling readers
I know it can seem overwhelming when your kids not only struggle to read but resist reading as well! All of my struggling readers (I have seven of them!) are reading well now. I honestly had many days when I thought we would never get to this place! The truth is that the road to reading fluency isn’t a straight one. It is a bumpy one with many twists and turns. It is a journey!
It does no good to worry and stress about your child’s learning. Here’s what to do instead:
- Get educated. If you don’t understand what is going on inside your child’s smart but struggling brain, you need to get educated. My parent education courses are a great way to get research-based information on things like dyslexia, dysgraphia, dyscalculia, and ADHD.
- Get support. If you are surrounded by traditional learners, you are going to feel less than and like something is wrong with you or your kids. NOT TRUE! Your kids learn differently and they need to be taught differently. My monthly support group, Beyond the Box Learning, provides education as well as a supportive community of other parents on the same journey.
Is your child resisting learning to read? Have you taken a break from reading?