A Parent’s Guide for Helping Reluctant Readers
How parents can help reluctant readers - Episode 027
What is a reluctant reader?
A reluctant reader is someone who does not find interest in reading. A reluctant reader could also be a struggling reader, but that is not always the case. Schools encourage reading and often assign homework such as Iready to boost children’s’ reading skills. But at what cost to the home life? When living with a reluctant reader, does it help the family relationship to force the child to do something they do not love?
Sometimes there isn’t a choice, but are there other ways to encourage reading without a fight? I spoke with Erin Silcox, a PhD student and the director of education at Wilderness Therapy Residential Treatment Center for at-risk adolescent males. Here she works with literacy and trauma (an episode on that will air at a later date), but in this episode we spoke about how, in her experience, parents can help their children foster a love of reading.
Here is a excerpt from our interview. For the entire episode, please listen above or subscribe to School Counselor Gone Rogue on iTunes, Googleplay or Stitcher.
Interview on Helping Reluctant Readers with Erin Silcox
I'm excited to have Erin Silcox back for another discussion about literacy and adolescence. Today we're going to focus on how parents can help if their child is a reluctant reader, if they're a struggling reader and how to fuel that love of learning and reading. And it's not always in ways that you think. So Erin, why don't you give us a background on what you do and who you are?
I wear a lot of hats right now. I'm the director of education at Wilderness Therapy Residential Treatment Center for at-risk adolescent males. I also taught there for several, for basically my whole teaching career so far in math and science to begin with as a novice teacher, and then worked on my masters in curriculum and instructionm and then took on the position of director of education when my predecessor left. I'm working on a Ph.D. through the University of Wyoming, and my Ph.D. is in literacy education.
What is the first thing parents should do to help a reluctant reader?
My first charge to parents would be to make sure that you have your own reading practice. It's funny because I started teaching mindfulness in my classroom and one of the first things that I learned was I can't bring mindfulness into the classroom unless I have my own mindfulness practice. Because that's hypocritical. And so I would encourage both parents -create in your home a love of learning and a love of reading by figuring out what you want to read. Maybe you want to read nonfiction. Maybe you want to be-- maybe your kid wants to be a car mechanic. Get him a car mechanic manual. Maybe that's one way to get in. Another way is if you have the money, go to the bookstore and if you don't, go to the library.
Go somewhere where you have free access, or not even free access but sort of free reign of all the books that there are, and spend an hour if you can get your kids to do this or scaffold it. So start with a 15-minute trip to the library where you go off if your kid's old enough. You leave them in their section. You find a book you want. They find a book they want.
Can you force a love of reading?
I think the ticket to reading and to writing is to not force it and to make it something you actually want to do. I have found over the years that sometimes, I'll try to force myself to read a book. And I'll do it, but it'll kind of hurt my love of reading a little bit if I force myself through a book that I don't really want to read, but I go back to what I love. And it's like, "Okay. I love reading," and I haven't always loved reading. I remember learning to read and it wasn't that great, but then I finally found-- actually, not until high school. I fell in love with Hemingway and John Steinbeck. And I was like, "Where have these been all my life?" And you just have to fall into what you love. And it might be really unpredictable.
What if my kid never reads?
It doesn't have to be written text, which is like, "What? Wait. What?" So there's this thing right now which is coming to fruition, it called-- well, it's not even anything new really. It's called multimodal literacies. The written word is not the only thing that counts as literacy. Now, obviously, kids really do benefit from practicing reading. Their vocabulary grows. Even their empathy can grow from reading novels. But if parents are faced with incredibly reluctant students who literacy-- kids who really struggle with academic literacy skills, it doesn't have to start with a book. It doesn't even have to start with an audio book. It doesn't even have to start with a graphic novel, which are all ways to get into it without saying, "Oh read this book," and the kids are like, "Are you kidding me? I don't read." But recognize what the child does that requires literacy that you don't realize requires literacy, and some kids play video games. Parents can kind of interrogate that practice a little bit, and look at what literacy skills does the game require. The kid might be blogger. If the kid's a blogger, they probably already have those literacy skills. That's not really an issue. But maybe they play magic-- maybe they're really into Pokemon. Maybe they're into sports, anything like that. And that might be like, "Well, there really aren't any literacy demands of sports," but looking at what the kid does for fun can reveal that they actually already have certain literacy skills that might not be showing up in school, and so what parents can do is figure out exactly what the kid is passionate about that can trick them into literacy - maybe they like cooking. They're reading recipes all the time. See if there's a way to incorporate those same skills in other ways that will foster the development of the literacy that is expected in school and capitalize on the interest to get them to using those literary skills in more sophisticated ways.
Video games count as literacy?
Video games are incredible at developing problem-solving skills and then figuring out ways to incorporate that with the literacy. And if people have more questions about that, I think we have a course on multi-modalities, and if not, we at least have a video or a blog post about multi-modalities and what they are and how to open up your definition of what counts as literacy because you might have an artist who doesn't like reading, but they're still being literate. They're still expressing themselves somehow. They're not all going to be super literacy heavy. This game that I just pulled up on my phone is called Piffle. There's nothing, but if you look at it, it really does. You have to buy stuff, you have to-- there are little messages that pop up, and you have to make a decision. And so especially when we see kids who are very deficit in maybe decoding, like I was saying those basic skills, somehow, the literacy required of video games tricks them into reading and trying and putting forth effort to be able to understand what they're either reading or the messages that they're receiving through the video game somehow whether it's through text or whether it's oral, they have to apply themselves to be able to comprehend it.
This is only a small portion of the interview with Erin Silcox. Our conversation went so long that I had to break it into two episodes! I can’t wait to have her back to discuss literacy and video games on a deeper level. The point is, that words are every where. A child does not have to be engaged with a book to read and decode. Listen to the full episode of School Counselor Gone Rogue to hear more ways that we can enhance our children’s literary experience!
Reluctant readers and struggling readers
Literacy in video games
How to create a love of reading in your home
Marni Pasch| Host of School Counselor Gone Rogue| Academic Coach | Team Pasch Academic Coaching
I work with students in grades 6th and higher, who struggle with academic confidence and motivation. I help them survive school with less stress by helping them create concrete goals, tackle procrastination and learn creative study techniques. I empower students to take charge of their education and reach their goals. I do this through individual or group coaching so students achieve success in life, school, career readiness and their social endeavors.