About this blog Subscribe to this blog

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.

Restroom Issues

Question: I have a student in my class with selective muteness.  This has become a major problem especially when it comes time for the student to use the restroom and instead of raising her hand to ask permission to go, the student will go in her seat.  What can be done to prevent this?

Myrna Shure: The first thing you want to do is rule out medical causes.  Once that is ruled out, and assuming the child is old enough to have been potty trained, you might ask the parents if this happens at home.  Try to find out if the parents know of particular anxieties the child may be experiencing, or whether she may simply be distracted easily, and not aware of her own body cues when she has to go to the bathroom. 

You might try bringing a parent and the child together in private, and in a warm, caring, and supportive voice ask, “Is something bothering you?”  If she doesn’t answer, try asking, “How do you feel about letting the teacher know when you have to go to the bathroom?”  If necessary, ask, “Do you feel afraid to let her know?”  If the child is old enough, you can add, “Do you feel embarrassed?”  If she indicates yes, let her know that it is ok for her to let you know. 

It is possible that the child feels angry, and this is her way of controlling what she perceives as controlling adults.  By asking “Is something bothering you,” the child may reveal thoughts and feelings you are unaware of.  Then ask her for her ideas on how to solve this problem.  This may help this child feel empowered, and is more likely to respond because she is coming up with her way to deal with her discomfort.

If selective muteness is a problem at other times as well, then I suspect this is her way of controlling adults.  Letting her express her thoughts and feelings will be helpful in this case.  I have found that as early as age 4 or 5, children are capable of participating in this kind of dialogue.

Children Who Prefer to Speak Spanish

Question: I work in a Pre-K class where all the students are English Language Learners. When students are communicating with me they use English but they immediately switch to their first language when they converse together and when they are not involved in a teacher guided center. I have been trying to motivate them to use more English in the class and with each other but they can’t seem to find the value in it since all their classmates and the community in which they live in all speak the same language. How can I go about motivating them to use more English in the classroom?

Polly Greenberg: I’m sure we agree that it’s great for children to have two languages; what an advantage throughout life (though it may take longer to get going in both at the beginning). And I agree with you that people need to learn English, along with maintaining their home language, if they live in a predominantly English speaking country.

I would enlist parents in this effort. Have a potluck social followed by a brief meeting to talk about “Your Child Learns English.” Try to build relationships with any amenable parent during the party and through discussion at the meeting.

1. Emphasize how important it is for children in Spanish speaking families to speak Spanish fluently so they and their parents—and grandparents—can communicate freely. If we expect parents to support our efforts we need to reassure them that we will not alienate their children from them. Also mention that many jobs require Spanish and English, so being competent in Spanish as well as English is advantageous.

2. Ask parents if they think it’s important for their child to learn English. If so why, and if not why not. See if you can get every parent present to comment on this. You never know what parents think and convey to their kids unless you ask. You might find, for example, that some parents move back and forth between countries, and because they’re here for only a few months each year, don’t consider learning English a priority. Encourage those who think it important for children to learn English to discuss this with the others—peer “teaching” is effective. The goal is to get parents to talk to each other.

3. Ask if people would like you to send home a few word cards every week with an English word and a picture or Spanish word on each card so parents can use the English words (objects and actions only) as they go about their business, becoming their child’s teacher at the same time. 

4. Ask if anyone is taking English classes. If so, compliment them and point out that they are setting an excellent example for their children. 

You probably already play action games requiring simple English words with your class, but the more you do it the better. For example, play freeze tag. To get unfrozen, the child must shout the name of a vegetable, fruit, color, or whatever category you’ve chosen and been working on at one of your centers. You say the children speak only Spanish when they play freely. What happens if you join in (not trying to alter it) and speak English as you play?

Children Who Prefer to Speak Spanish

For more information on bilingual education and research, visit the National Association for Bilingual Education at http://www.nabe.org/index.html. Also visit the National Association for the Education of Young Children at http://www.naeyc.org/ for information about English Language Learners. 

Children Who Prefer to Speak Spanish

Question: I work in a Pre-K class where all the students are English Language Learners. When students are communicating with me they use English but they immediately switch to their first language when they converse together and when they are not involved in a teacher guided center. I have been trying to motivate them to use more English in the class and with each other but they can’t seem to find the value in it since all their classmates and the community in which they live in all speak the same language. How can I go about motivating them to use more English in the classroom?

Polly Greenberg: I’m sure we agree that it’s great for children to have two languages; what an advantage throughout life (though it may take longer to get going in both at the beginning). And I agree with you that people need to learn English, along with maintaining their home language, if they live in a predominantly English speaking country.

I would enlist parents in this effort. Have a potluck social followed by a brief meeting to talk about “Your Child Learns English.” Try to build relationships with any amenable parent during the party and through discussion at the meeting.

1. Emphasize how important it is for children in Spanish speaking families to speak Spanish fluently so they and their parents—and grandparents—can communicate freely. If we expect parents to support our efforts we need to reassure them that we will not alienate their children from them. Also mention that many jobs require Spanish and English, so being competent in Spanish as well as English is advantageous.

2. Ask parents if they think it’s important for their child to learn English. If so why, and if not why not. See if you can get every parent present to comment on this. You never know what parents think and convey to their kids unless you ask. You might find, for example, that some parents move back and forth between countries, and because they’re here for only a few months each year, don’t consider learning English a priority. Encourage those who think it important for children to learn English to discuss this with the others—peer “teaching” is effective. The goal is to get parents to talk to each other.

3. Ask if people would like you to send home a few word cards every week with an English word and a picture or Spanish word on each card so parents can use the English words (objects and actions only) as they go about their business, becoming their child’s teacher at the same time. 

4. Ask if anyone is taking English classes. If so, compliment them and point out that they are setting an excellent example for their children. 

You probably already play action games requiring simple English words with your class, but the more you do it the better. For example, play freeze tag. To get unfrozen, the child must shout the name of a vegetable, fruit, color, or whatever category you’ve chosen and been working on at one of your centers. You say the children speak only Spanish when they play freely. What happens if you join in (not trying to alter it) and speak English as you play?

For more advice by Polly, check out the Setting Limits column.

Children Who Prefer to Speak Spanish

For more information on bilingual education and research, visit the National Association for Bilingual Education at http://www.nabe.org/index.html. Also visit the National Association for the Education of Young Children at http://www.naeyc.org/ for information about English Language Learners. 

Early Childhood Today Homepage

Recent Posts

Categories

Quick Links:

Recommended Sites:

Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in Early Childhood Today - Ask The Experts are strictly those of the author and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Scholastic, Inc.