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February 25, 2013



I have a middle schooler that thinks she hates to read. The problem is she is being made to read things that have no interest for her. How do I help that?

Jennifer Eichelberger

Wow! I have used everyone of those 'what not to do' with my daughter. I'm so glad you posted this. I'll start changing the way I help her read. Thank you.

Amy @ Sunlit Pages

All of these suggestions are great. Unfortunately, I think I've fallen into the trap of employing all of them at some point with my son. I'll definitely be more conscientious now!

Kim Baccellia

As a credentialed teacher, I agree with all the suggestions you've listed. I cringe whenever I hear parents say how they get their children to just read classics or books above their grade level. I was trained to use the whole language method of reading but learned it helps to combine both. I do believe in using phonics but not to the point that a child has to sound out every word. Rather I do suggest reading to the end of the sentence and see if child can figure out the word which most times they will do.

C baker

Many words can’t be sounded out.

Technically true, because the English language has a great many words, but given that 97% of the words in the English language CAN be easily sounded out by somebody who competently understands our orthography, I would challenge anybody stating that to give me a word that cannot be sounded out first, as an example.

It is my experience that most of them will then produce a word like "lightning", or some other word that is easy to sound out with a clear knowledge of English orthography. The sad thing is that they don't realize this, and because they don't realize this they think that most words cannot be sounded out. That simply is not true.


I made myself a promise that I would never refuse to read to my boys. No matter what I'm doing I stop and read to them whenever they ask. My youngest isn't even 2 yet, but I can already tell he loves books. I like to take some of the credit for that!

C baker

As an example, one often hears the claim that the dolch word list (which is a list of words often used in children's primers, and because people teach from that list it's a bit of a vicious circle, but I digress) must be taught as sight words because those words "cannot be sounded out". In extreme cases, teachers will even cite words such as "red" as not decodeable.

A sight word is a word that we do not sound out every time, but an accomplished reader can even read totally unfamiliar words, like verklempt or rondavel or klotsky without breaking a sweat. Not because we have tediously memorized them, but because we understand the phonetic code. (Really weird ones like cwm might throw us for a loop, but who could predict cwm who doesn't speak Welsh?)

Because literate adults do not laboriously sound out every word as we read, which would slow us down considerably, it is tempting to think that we memorize every word. However, what we really have memorized to automaticity is the rules of English writing.

As an example, I'm looking over the dolch word list now, a list of 220 words and an additional 100 nouns. Of them, I found nine words that either a. have an unusual phonogram that young readers may not have been taught yet (buy, using the bu phonogram found in buy, build, and buoy) or b. have a SINGLE usual phonogram with an unusual pronunciation that might trip up a new reader (said, which analyzes neatly as say + ed, but which is pronounced sed, of course) and four words with tricky enough pronunciations (once made the list here) that I think it is reasonable to expect a new reader to not be able to decode it.

That's no more than 13% of words in a highly limited list. Telling kids that "many" or "most" words cannot be easily decoded is lying to them, and is increasing the risk of dyslexia among them as well. Making at risk kids wait to be taught synthetic phonics in a clear, systematic way is doing them a disservice. Some children learn to read fine without this, but EVERY child learns to read with synthetic phonics.

C baker

Sorry, i can't do basic math, it seems. I forgot the list I was working on had 320 words, so, um, 13 out of 320 is... Um... Well, it's something like 5%, not 13%, which of course is 13 out of 100.

Margie Allred

I would like to add another mistakes that parents sometimes make. Quitting reading to a child when they learn to read. Read books above the child's reading level. Their listening vocabulary is much higher than their independent reading vocabulary. They can't read the words until they know them. Find stories that the child is interested in but cannot read on their own and read them aloud. This is advertising. Show them that reading is fun and interesting.

Helen Ellison

As a person who was read to constantly as a child and even as a teenager some of my favorite memories as a kid was my mother reading to my brother and I every night. As for the sounding out of words I still may do that when trying to spell a word which is difficult.


For Amanda –

First, reading along with an audio book has worked well for us. If a kid finds a book boring, the mind wanders making the assignment take forever. An audio book encourages you to keep moving forward. Many audio books have great dramatic readers which also make it more engaging.

Second, if you have time read the book too, talk about it together -- book club style. Figure out how the story relates to her experience or just bellyache together about how awful it is – but try to get her to figure out why she feels a particular way about the book.

Finally, keep her interests in mind and leave “casual” reading (magazines, graphic novels, even cookbooks or art books, etc.) around for her to pick up. If she can experience reading beyond a forced task she may soon discover the joys that books have to offer.

Happy reading!


I think another mistake made and one I have to remind my self not to make is comparing one child to another. They are each different and learn in different ways. My oldest so started reading when he was 4 with me doing nothing but reading to him and providing him with lots of books. My next son didn't start reading until the end of kindergarden when he was 6 1/2 years old. For a little while I paniced and then remembered this is completely normal. Funny thing was he caught up to the same reading level his older brother had been in second grade by the time he was in second grade. Another thing is to keep books around and available. I go to the library once a week and pick a new selection of books. Some are ones they request but others are ones I think they would like. They don't always read the ones I choose but they have a selection. And one more thing is don't sto reading to your kids. I still read to my 12 and 14 year old boys and use that time to read things a little harder or books they might not pick up on their own but I know they would love. I recently read The Scarlet Pimpernel to them which they loved and we just finished the Books of Bayern.

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Thanks for these--many are also good tips for parenting in general!


One of my sons did not like to read anything that was the least bit challenging. He liked simple chapter books. However, he did want to read one of the Harry Potter books. I knew it would be frustrating for him, so I made him a deal. I would "let" him read the Harry Potter book if he would listen to the audio book and read along with it. It worked. He could read on his own time (when mom was busy) and before long he was reading anything he wanted without an audio books.

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