Updated: Aug 5
Rebecca, one of our top English tutors, gives her advice to parents on how their children can start to enjoy reading.
Books are amazing. They can take you to new worlds, immerse you in other people’s lives, and teach you all sorts of new things.
If, like me, you preferred reading to people as a child (and maybe still as an adult!) then you’ll take this for granted.
But what if you have a child or a student who just doesn’t feel that way? How can you change the narrative, inspire a reluctant reader, and revolutionise the way someone feels about books?
Whilst everyone is different, and I don’t quite have all the answers, here are some ideas that have worked well for me:
1. First and most important: find fun books! If you have a pupil who can’t begin to comprehend or enjoy their set texts, don’t keep bashing their heads at them. Together, find a book they think they might enjoy, and don’t worry if it’s quite a bit simpler or aimed at younger age groups – the key thing is to build up confidence and enjoyment in reading, and then you can progress on to more complicated books.
2. Ask them to read aloud to you – it’ll enable you to hear which vocabulary they struggle with, how much of the characterisation and plot they’re following, and the pace at which they read. Reading aloud comes much more naturally to younger pupils, but it works brilliantly with older students too. If you have a teenager who feels awkward and uncomfortable, I’ve found it works best to be completely open and honest: acknowledge that it can feel embarrassing, but explain why it’s so useful – and promise not to laugh at them!
3. Tied to this, if a student has a block about reading, the last thing that’ll help is to tease them or be overly critical about it. When correcting their pronunciation of words, be gentle, and don’t feel you have to catch every word every time; make a judgement, and if you’ve corrected several words in the last few sentences, maybe let a couple of mistakes go by unchallenged, so they don’t feel hopeless, and can get into the flow of the story. Try not to leap in with a correction as soon as they stumble, but see if they notice, let them practise sounding out the word, and be very enthusiastic if they manage to get it right, no matter how long it takes! Make sure you praise frequently and sincerely, whether that’s for hesitating over a word but eventually landing on the right pronunciation, for reading in their own time, or for being able to tell you what’s going on in the story – if they’ve had people laugh at them for their reading before, then every bit of positive reinforcement you can give will go a really long way.
4. Discuss the story together. Talk about which is their favourite character, what they think of events and behaviour in the narrative, and imagine what might happen next and why. Work on some writing, drama, or storytelling exercises based around the book, to help them feel more invested and immersed in the story. The ultimate aim is to get them so interested in the characters and what’s going to happen next that they want to keep reading.
5. Really encourage them to read in their own time. Set small, manageable chunks to read, aiming for a little bit every day. Even if it’s just a few pages, it starts to ingrain the habit of frequent reading, and the shorter gaps there are between opening a book, the less scary and difficult it becomes.
Hopefully these suggestions are enough to get over any fear and hatred of reading and open the door a little bit – after that you just need to keep a steady flow of fantastic books coming!
If you are interested in one of our tutors helping with your child's reading, then feel free to get in touch. Visit the Titanium Tutors website for more information!
Blog Post Crafted by Rebecca
Background: Rebecca is one of our most popular tutors, with a degree in English from the University of Cambridge and hundreds of hours of private tuition experience in 7+, 11+, English and Maths. She is also an assessor for Titanium Tutors, observing the mock lessons taught by potential tutors and deciding whether or not they meet the high standards of the agency.