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Growing Reader


Your Child’s Reading Excuses, and What They Really Mean

by Melissa Taylor

Photo credit: Absodels/Getty Images

Kids don’t articulate the reason they hate reading. They don’t say, “I think my brain processing is slow and I’m not remembering what I read.”

No. Kids will tell you that “reading is boring” or “stupid” and it’s up to you to decipher their kid-speak.

Let’s look at the most common excuses kids use, the real meaning behind them, and most importantly, what you can do about it.

1. The Fake Reader (Quietly Pretends to Read, Never Giving an Excuse)

The fake reader is an accomplished actor. He slips under the radar. He might take twenty minutes to pick out a book, sit with a book but not turn the pages, or even make up a plot that sounds plausible.

This reader is struggling and doesn’t want to ask for help. Perhaps he doesn’t want to admit how difficult reading is for him.

You’ll want to spend time reading with this reader so you can determine what he’s able to read and comprehend. Make sure he has tons of good books at a just-right reading level (or easier) from which to pick. Let him listen to audiobooks to help get him hooked on a good story. Give him money to spend at the bookstore on any book that interests him. Praise this reader if and when he tells you the truth about what’s going on. And, of course, ask for help from his teacher or your school’s reading specialist.

2. The “Reading Is Stupid” Reader

Most likely reading is hard for this child. She feels stupid when she’s reading so she says reading is stupid.

Use your detective skills to investigate what’s happening.

– Does she understand what she reads?
If not, you need to determine if the words in the book are too hard and move to an easier book. If she’s able to read the words in the book but doesn’t understand the meaning, you need to seek professional advice, including learning testing.

– Does she know her sight words?
Not knowing sight words inhibits reading fluency since those are words that are not sound out-able (decodable). Help her learn the sight words. If you don’t know what they are, here are the Fry words and the Dolch words for each grade.

– Can she decode words?
If she can’t figure out new words, help her learn word attack strategies. These are important to know because sound-it-out is generally not the best strategy for figuring out a word.

– Does your reader have a confidence issue?
If your child is just feeling a lack of confidence, switch to reading easy books that she can finish quickly with no problems. Make it even more fun by letting your child read to a pet instead of to you.

3. The “Reading Is Boring” Reader

The “bored” reader falls into three categories:

– Hasn’t Found an Interesting Book (Ever)
This reader needs the help of a super librarian who loves to match kids with books. Look for books in topics and genres of his interest. It’s especially helpful to get this reader into a great series of books so he’ll have plenty of reading material. And, it’s absolutely essential that this reader is able to choose his own books.

– Struggling with Reading
Some kids who say reading is boring actually mean reading is really hard for them. See the above section, “Reading Is Stupid,” for ideas on what to do.

– Dislikes Anything Not Electronic
Some tech-addicted kids will read more if they get to read on an electronic device such as a Kindle, iPad, or smartphone. Remember, reading is reading, no matter how the information is delivered. Let this reader use a tablet or Kindle to read.

4. Books Are Too Easy

If you child is re-reading Junie B. Jones books over and over again and is in fourth grade then no wonder she’s bored! Kids’ brains need stimulation and challenges. (Just like ours.) Reading easy books is okay every once in a while, but the rest of the time your child needs to be reading books at his instructional level.

Give this child an enthralling read that is at her reading level – with rich word choice and concepts that make her think. If you need help with ideas, ask your child’s teacher or a librarian.

5. The “I’m Too Busy to Read” Reader

This is a legitimate reading excuse. If your child’s schedule is packed with activities, reading easily gets neglected.

Make sure your child has chunks of time in her day for reading. Travel everywhere with a book so that she can read in the car, while waiting for lessons, or while eating a snack. Show your child that reading matters to you and read when she reads.

When in doubt, ask a teacher or reading professional for help. The earlier you break through a child’s reading challenges, the better.