Ask Reading Kingdom: How do I motivate my older child who is reluctant to read?

Children form habits and preference based on experience.  If repeated failure is present, they can be reluctant to try new strategies to learn to read.

An answer to this question requires a distinction between skill and motivation. If a child is a skilled reader and “simply” does not seek out books to read, the situation is not open to easy modification. In our current hi-tech society, reading is not an activity that many children seek. But as long as the skill is present and the child can effectively handle the demands of the curriculum, then the situation is one that we and the children can “live with.”

Matters are very different when the lack of motivation is combined with a lack of skill. If the child is to avoid feelings of failure and incompetence, reading skills are essential. When I see children like this in my practice, I often make an “agreement” with them. I tell them that I understand their doubt about the situation improving—since they have experienced so much failure. But then I ask them to agree to about 8 weeks of trying a new set of techniques and materials. Invariably they agree because they yearn to be able to read well. Generally the arrangement “works.”  When the improvement becomes apparent everything changes and the child is generally keen to proceed.

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