Should I Force My Child to Read? 8 Common Mistakes
We don't intentionally discourage our children from reading. But sometimes we can make small yet frequent mistakes that deter our budding young readers over time.
Forcing a child to read is a common mistake, but there are plenty of other ways you can help encourage your little ones to read. Here are some common ways parents can discourage their child from reading, and what you can try to do instead.
1. Not providing reading material at home
Fill your house with stacks of books, in all the crannies and all the nooks."
– Dr. Seuss
A love of reading begins with great books – a lot of them! Make sure your house is stocked up with age‑appropriate books and reading material, including comic books and kids' magazines. Provide a variety of reading material around the house and in your child's bedroom. Early readers can also benefit from having posters on the wall that include a lot of text (e.g. animal charts, nursery rhymes, and songs). If your child owns a tablet device, try reading apps like Reading Eggs that will give their other games a run for their money.
For long car trips and family holidays, always pack books and reading material.
Give your child their own bookshelves at home, and if they've finished all their books, you can always find more at the local library.
2. Using reading time as a bargaining chip…
Sure it may be tempting, but using reading time as a bargaining tool is something that parents should try to avoid. It's never a good idea to associate reading with any other incentive than pure enjoyment or learning about new things. If your child is a reluctant reader, saying things like, 'If you do your reading you can watch TV' or, 'Just ten minutes of reading and you can have dessert' are not going to yield real long‑term results. Instead of bargaining, encourage your child to see the intrinsic rewards of reading by saying things like, “Wow, you finished your book today! Which was the best part?” or, “I remember reading that book in school, and I still love it today!”
3. Or using it as a threat
Reading should not be presented to children as a chore or duty. It should be offered to them as a precious gift."
– Kate DiCamillo
The one thing that could be worse than bribing your child to read is using it as part of punishment. Have you ever heard yourself say something like, “You didn't do your reading so you don't get to watch TV”? We've almost all been there.
Using reading time as punishment can leave your child filled with dread at the very thought of it.
4. Not letting them choose their own books
If your child is at school, chances are they have a set reading list, and there may not be very much you can do about it. So when it comes to reading books outside of school, it's important to let your child choose the ones they really want.
Visit the library and let your child pick out the books they want to read. There's nothing wrong with making suggestions and guiding your child's decision – we all hope our children will love the same books we loved as children. But ultimately, if they're reluctant about a book from the get‑go, they're not very likely to warm up to it anytime soon.
5. Being a non-reader yourself
Can't remember the last time you picked up a book? Finding time to read can become a great challenge in our adult years, especially when raising a family. But if your child doesn't see you or anybody else in the house enjoying a good book, eventually they'll struggle to see the value in doing it for themselves. Let your child see you indulge in a good read now and then – children watch (and often copy) our every move.
6. Choosing books that are too easy or too hard
If your child finds a book too easy or too 'babyish', they'll quickly grow bored with it. On the other hand, if the book is too challenging and contains too many words they don't know, it's likely to cause immense frustration, which can put them off reading altogether.
A good way to determine if a book is just right for your child is by using the Five Finger Rule. If the book has a few difficult words, try reading aloud together. There's nothing wrong with exposing children to more complex language in context. But if you know the language and concepts will be too difficult for them to enjoy the story, set it aside for another time.
7. Over‑correcting their mistakes
This one is tricky. While it's important to show your child where they've gone wrong, being overly critical can be extremely discouraging.
Reading should be a fun and enjoyable experience. It's important to prove this to your child. Forcing them to read and reread text until they have it perfect can be very discouraging to an emerging reader. Try to avoid interrupting while they are reading and wait for a natural pause to point out any mistakes if you need to. If you want to help your child work on their reading fluency, try texts that are fun to re‑read over and over again, such as fun rhymes and poetry, which also give reluctant readers a great sense of accomplishment.
8. Forgetting to read with your child regularly
Children are made readers on the laps of their parents."
– Emilie Buchwald
Even if your child is old enough to read on their own, reading together can still have a lot of value. Take turns reading aloud and create positive reading memories together. Talk about the story, the characters, and the pictures, and ask your child questions about how they feel or think about the book. Setting a regular reading time with your child is one of the best ways to set them up for a lifetime love of reading.