A mom the other day at a signing event was telling me how hard it is to get her nine-year-old son to read a book. "I get him books and they just sit on his nightstand gathering dust," she said.
Sounds familiar. I hear this all the time. So I have her a simple piece of advice that works like a charm at our house:
Read the first few chapters aloud to him over the course of a few nights.
One of two things will likely happen: One, he'll be so intrigued by the third or fourth night that he'll take over and start reading to himself. Or two, you may become so involved in the book that you start to look forward to your reading aloud sessions; you may even find that you're enjoying the book almost as much as he does—or more.
I know it sounds too simple. And it's not always the easiest thing to do after a long day at work or dealing with everyday hustles and hassles. But it works.
Let's face it, getting started is the hardest part for any reluctant reader. Sometimes kids can be turned off simply because they can't pronounce the characters' names correctly. Or they can't quite figure out what's going on in the first two chapters; you can answer the questions, clarify the action for them, or help them grasp who the key characters are and how they fit together. Then the story takes over!
So many parents presume that once their child can read for themself, they're done with the reading aloud business. But that's just the beginning of so many hours of nestling together as you make your way through a great adventure. I read my girls the entire Gregor the Overlander series and I had a blast doing it. My wife read them all the Charlie Bone stories and they were all hooked. There's no better quality time than time spent reading together. Heck, this is when the stories get really good. It also shows your child that you value books and reading.
So if a child you know has trouble getting the ball rolling, I suggest you pick up that book and get the party started. Sometimes a little reading together time can create a whole lot of momentum.