Ask yourself these questions. Have you ever made your kiddos read stories they didn’t like simply because they were in the reading series or on a certain “reading list”? I have.
Have you ever encouraged your kiddos to read challenging books that were way too difficult for them? I have.
As a teacher, I’ve forced my students to read the wretched stories out of the reading book. I’ve also allowed, and even encouraged, my students to read stories that were much too hard for them…never realizing the damage I was doing to their relationship with reading.
As a homeschooling mom, I’ve made my boys read books they loathed. I’ve also made them read books they could barely understand just so we could check it off the “grade appropriate reading list.”
In both cases, it was like I was beating my head against a brick wall. My kids were completely disconnected from the stories, and I was encouraging them to hate reading.
Reading and rereading uninteresting stories
I love to read! I always have. However, as with everyone, I’m specific in the types of books I enjoy. I savor inspirational fiction, mysteries, children’s books, and of course, my Bible.
Now, if you asked me to sit down and read a handbook about fixing the transmission in my vehicle, I would gladly volunteer for a root canal instead.
So, while it’s difficult for me to understand how others, including my husband and two boys, don’t love reading as much as I do, I can understand that the topic of the text can have more to do with interest, or disinterest, than anything else.
Unfortunately, when I began teaching, I thought the basal readers were “good,” and I was required to have my students read them. I never thought about the negative impact I was having on my their love of reading.
I was requiring my students to read stories they weren’t interested in, and to make matters worse, I was having these kids read the stories over and over again.
The only thing worse than reading a boring story once is reading that story over and over again because it’s a requirement.
When my boys were in school, they brought their reading books home each night to practice reading out loud. For an entire week, I had to listen to the SAME story. Honestly, a few times, it got to the point that I was ready to jump out the nearest window to avoid listening again. (Please tell me you, understand.)
I realized that my kids had to be feeling the same way reading the story over and over. It made me rethink the way I was teaching reading to my students at school.
Reading text that is much too difficult
Sometimes, the stories are interesting to our kids. Sometimes, they enjoy the texts. But, sometimes, the text is just too hard for them to comprehend. Think about it like this…
If I pulled out a medical textbook and began reading, I would understand about 1% of the information I read. Why? Well, I wouldn’t know most of the words, and therefore, I wouldn’t be comprehending the meaning of the text. Obviously, I would not choose to read this medical book for fun because it isn’t fun not to understand what you’re reading.
It’s exactly the same way with kids.
The amount of complexity involved in the reading process is astounding. As adults, we tend to forget this because most of us have practiced this skill on a daily basis since we were 5 or 6. The ability comes as naturally to us as breathing.
Unfortunately, sometimes we’re oblivious to the intricate processes happening during reading.
Budding readers must remember letter sounds, blends, spelling rules, and punctuation. They also have to understand context, expression, and author’s craft. Then, put all of that together in an attempt to recall and make meaning of what they just read!
Honestly, it’s exhausting.
Remember the analogy of me and the medical textbook? I didn’t enjoy reading a book that was much too difficult for me. Quite frankly, I’d be fine never attempting to read another medical book.
Did you catch that?
I AM a fluent reader who enjoys reading, and if I feel that way about the medical book, just think about how our struggling readers must feel about EVERY book. Then think about the reluctant readers…the ones that have the ability to read, but they just don’t enjoy it.
What sort of message are we sending these kids? They’re hearing, “You will be reading a text that is too difficult, on a topic that is supremely boring because your teacher or parent says you must.”
Wow! Talk about encouraging!
Is there a solution?
I’m so glad you asked! Actually, I have several solutions.
- If you don’t like the story that comes next in the series, skip it, or use a completely different text. You’re the teacher. Choose the books or stories your kiddos read based on interests they have, or, at the very least, choose ones they can tolerate.
- If you must read the boring story, don’t make the kiddos read it at home all week. In honor of parents everywhere…please, just don’t.
- If a story or book is too hard, use it as a read aloud. This will be the perfect opportunity to model appropriate expression, and to discuss various aspects of the text.
- If you are using complex text with your kiddos, use it sparingly. In other words, choose a paragraph as opposed to an entire chapter.
- If you are requiring reading at home, allow readers to choose what they read, but put parameters on the length of time they read. Instead of assigning a certain number of pages, have your kiddos set a timer and read for 20 minutes.
- Model reading for enjoyment, and express to your readers the importance of picking books to read that are interesting and aren’t too hard.
You are an amazing person, and if you, like me, have made some of these mistakes just remember tomorrow is a new day! You can be more effective in your instruction by using this information to encourage your kiddos to love reading…or at the very least, like it a little more than yesterday!