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Motivating a Child to Read

Question: How do you motivate a child to read when they are having a lot of trouble with it?

Myrna Shure: I’m assuming the child is old enough to be able to read and the child is behind grade level and therefore not interested in trying.  Here are some suggestions:

l. Let the child choose a story for you or another adult in the school to read aloud to him. Read the entire story without interruption so the child hears how the story begins and ends.

2. Ask questions to help the child think about the characters and any problem or conflict that came up between the characters. Many children’s books do depict these kinds of situations. Questions can include:
    -“What’s the problem in this story?”  “What happened?”
    -“How did (name a character) feel when that happened?
    -“Has anything like this ever happened to you?”
    -“How did you feel when that happened?’

3. If there’s an illustration showing a character’s feelings, let the child point to it and make his own happy, sad, or angry face.

4. Now ask:
    -“How did the children in the story solve the problem?”
    -“Do you think that was a good way to solve it?”  “Why or why not?”
    -“Can you think of other ways they could have solved the problem?”
    “What might happen in the story if they used your way to solve the problem?”

Another way to nurture a genuine interest in books is to encourage the child to make up stories of his own. Start with guiding the child to invent a different ending to the story you just read, perhaps with endings from the perspective of the different characters. You might even let him read his story to the class. And you can help this child understand that he can get ideas for his own stories by reading those written by others.

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