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  • Writer's pictureSamantha Sophiea

How to promote reading at home

Student Spotlight:

In her marvelous book, Proust and the Squid, Dr. Maryanne Wolf quotes:

"I would rather clean the mold around the bathtub than read"- A child with dyslexia.

Reading at home is a struggle that extends beyond children with dyslexia. In fact, based on the number of parents who have asked me, "How do I get [insert child's name here] to read at home?" my assumption is that it happens in more houses than not.

This week, I was approached by a student's mother with the infamous question: "He doesn't like audiobooks. He doesn't like comic books. He puts down every book he starts. Can you help?" Now, this student has a mixed receptive-expressive language disorder in addition to dyslexia. When he reads, it's a burden to decode (dyslexia) and comprehend (receptive language).

A few thoughts popped into my mind:

  • What are his interests? Better yet, what content areas does he have some background knowledge in?

  • What is his reading level? What series would match his decoding ability while still providing rich content?

  • How can we help him comprehend what he is reading? No one likes to read a book they don't understand.

  • How can we set realistic goals for his reading stamina? How can we foster the love of reading without sending him into overwhelm?

The next day, when I had the student in my office, I showed him a series of books that he would be able to decode and that aligned with his interest. As we read the first two chapters, we created a bookmark with the essential characters and setting to help him keep track of the content. While we read, I asked him questions to ensure he kept up with the story. If he missed something, we talked about it. And, if he made a mistake while decoding (reading the words), I corrected him. Yes, that's right. I didn't make him feel bad or embarrass him; I gently encouraged him to try the word again or helped him correct his error.

After two chapters, I had to force him to put it down. He was hooked! He wants to read every book in the "I Survived" series. Now, I recognize that this was a fortunate situation; typically, it takes a few tries to find a series that sticks. But, the principles remain the same.

  • When you're choosing a book for at-home reading, it is important to consider if the child is comprehending it. I can't say it enough: no one wants to read a book they don't understand. Help them map out the characters and setting to keep track of the information. This is especially important at the beginning of a book.

  • Tap into their interests and background knowledge. Having background knowledge about a topic will assist with comprehension. And, if you like what you're reading about, chances are you will want to keep reading.

  • Don't be afraid of partner reading. Quantity isn't better than quality. It is better to take turns reading with your child and ensure they understand the information than to force them to silently read on their own.

  • Audiobooks are great, but they don't solve everything. In fact, some children (especially those with a language disorder) have a harder time with audiobooks. If you are using audiobooks, encourage your child to follow along with a hard copy.

  • Whenever possible, choose a book in a series. If all goes well, they will want to read the rest!

Teacher/Clinician Takeaways:

  • Consider the reading homework you are assigning. Break away from the idea that it's the duration of time spent reading that matters.

  • Focus on good quality reading rather than quantity. The goal is for students to decode accurately and understand the content.

  • Embed comprehension with assigned reading work. For example, include comprehension questions, have students participate in a book club (kids like to talk about what they read too!), or have students annotate while they read.

  • Use the principles discussed above to help your students find books they enjoy.

  • Be thoughtful of the goal of the reading task you are assigning. Adjust the content and expectations accordingly.

Parent Takeaways:

  • Whether it's exciting trips to the library, choosing interesting books, or reading with your child, do what you can to make reading fun.

  • Allow your child to have a voice in their reading preferences and schedule. Giving them a bit of control (what time they want to read, what they want to read, where they want to read) will go a long way.

  • Remember that good quality reading is better than quantity.

  • Don't forget about other forms of print! Magazines that are packed full of background knowledge and interesting information are one of my favorite things to have students read. The Weak Junior is a fan favorite.

  • With your child's help (and permission), initiate activities around reading with peers. Maybe schedule a play date at the library, or organize a child book club. Let your child help you think of ideas, too!

  • Remember, silent reading isn't always the answer.

  • Be thoughtful about the time you're asking your child to read. Most likely, they will be able to engage in high-quality reading when they are not fatigued.

As always, email with any questions or comments about this week's post. Or, if you're interested in connecting with The Learning Doctor, visit to inquire about a free consultation.

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