What To Do When A Child Refuses To Read (Ages 5-9)

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As a parent, you know that babies and growing children are sponges and can soak up any and all information that they can. And that’s exactly why getting started with the habit of reading at an early stage is ideal. 

But it isn’t always easy, right? If you’re wondering what to do when a child refuses to read, or are just on the hunt for some tips and tricks to make reading more fun and enjoyable for your child, here’s some help. 

Why is Reading Important For Children?

Research has shown that reading to children right from birth can have remarkable effects on their mental and emotional health. Children who read are able to understand emotions and show empathy effortlessly. In addition, reading can strengthen your child’s vocabulary and is directly linked to better academic performance too. 

That’s not all there’s so much more than reading can do for your child. 

Kids who read become better communicators, have increased creativity, and are more imaginative; all of which make them better students!  Encouraging your kids to read regularly has many benefits and is a great way for you to bond with them as well.

At What Age Can a Child Read Fluently?

Reading a book fluently on their own is a milestone in itself, and it is different for each individual child. There are, however, certain general guidelines to keep in mind as your young reader takes those first steps toward becoming an independent reader.

The development of reading skills progresses gradually over time. Not all children develop at the same rate and they may progress more quickly through it and learn how to reach much faster than others. 

Children between two to four years of age are usually able to recognize and produce familiar words and sounds, which signifies that they are ready to begin learning to read. 

Between the age of five to six, children begin to acquire the basic concepts of alphabets, which are necessary for recognizing word combinations. They are able to learn to read by sounding out words letter-by-letter. 

Children aged seven to eight have built a solid understanding of letter sounds and how they work together to create words. Now they can sound out unfamiliar words with ease. They also grasp that words have meaning. 

By age nine or ten, kids have developed their reading vocabulary skills enough that they can quickly identify the most common high-frequency words (words that appear often in written language) without having to sound each one out letter by letter. They can also read longer, more complex sentences and are less likely to substitute the wrong word in a sentence when trying to read something on their own.

Reading fluency is composed of several different skills that work together. The younger your child's age, the more time they have to develop the individual skills necessary for reading fluently, and as children get older, they have more time to practice and strengthen these skills. And as they do, their reading will become faster and smoother because the decoding of words becomes automatic; that is, your child masters enough sight words (words that are easily recognizable by sight) that they can quickly recognize in print without using sound-out strategies to decode them letter-by-letter.

Does Reading Make a Child Smarter?

Oh yes- reading can play a vital role in making your child more successful. Studies have shown that this activity can have a positive impact on the brain and that it can also be linked to better vocabulary and improved understanding of language, all leading to an improved ability to understand and communicate ideas and thoughts.

There is evidence that not only does reading help academic abilities but having books around the house also improves physical skills such as hand-eye coordination, balance, and even creativity. 

However, this improvement really kicks off after age six or so, suggesting that early exposure to books is more important than having them around later on. With time, it becomes clear what the benefits of reading are and children begin to understand the importance of gaining knowledge through books. This understanding manifests itself in many ways: children who enjoy reading for pleasure tend to be better at comprehending stories, following plotlines, and recognizing words more quickly than their peers.

Do Reading Skills Indicate Academic Performance?

Encouraging early literacy has many benefits, and they aren’t just linked to academic performance, but so much more. 

  • Reading improves vocabulary and language skills. When a child reads a book (or are read to) they can use their imagination in any way they wish, which helps them relate to the characters and therefore understand how to pronounce certain words or scenarios.
  • Reading stimulates creativity & imagination. This is important for both girls and boys (although studies show that boys benefit more from reading). The act of reading forces children to use their imagination, which can help them in their development as they grow older.
  • Reading gives the brain a little exercise. For children who are struggling academically, this will play a huge role in improving their performance at school. When someone reads they are using both hemispheres of the brain; the left hemisphere controls language skills whereas the right side is associated with paying attention and comprehension skills. By exercising one area of the brain, you also improve your overall cognitive functioning, which includes memory retention and focus.
  • Children's books present new vocabulary words within context so they can be easily understood. This can help children to become familiar with words that may be difficult to spell or sound out but are not unfamiliar with their meaning which can prove frustrating for many kids. The more your child reads the better they will become at pinpointing these tricky words quickly and without having to visually look them up each time.
  • Reading is an excellent way to keep kids engaged. With all of the TV shows, video games, and smartphone exposure today it's no wonder that parents are looking for a healthier alternative. When you sit down with your child to read together, it allows you to connect with them on a deeper level while helping them grow healthy communication skills as well as general knowledge about life.
  • Encouraging your child to read can open doors for new opportunities. If your child is struggling at school, reading can help them to improve academically. Reading also allows children to learn about new things they may not otherwise be exposed to in their everyday lives. 

Why Does My Child Refuse to Read?

If your child seems to be resisting reading books, you might be concerned, and it is only natural. Well, it turns out there could be many possible reasons why your child might be refusing to read. 

In most cases, especially with older children, it is due to the fact that children have become so used to having the digital world and devices as their source of entertainment, that they simply dislike books. You might find that children who resist reading due to this reason also avoid situations when they can spend time engaging in quiet activities such as exploring nature or playing outside.

Another possible reason why your child might not enjoy reading as much as you’d want them to is that reading is presented to them in an unappealing and boring way. Check if you’re being too strict with your child and not allowing them the flexibility to say, move around or pick the book of their choice. Let your child feel free and develop that excitement of reading a new book, as opposed to presenting it in a strict way. 

Your child may also be avoiding books because they may be finding them too hard to read. Make sure you choose age-appropriate books, especially for younger children. Picture books are an excellent investment you could make. Also, remember that your child should associate reading with pleasure- the more they find you enjoying reading yourself, the more inclined they are to be interested in books too. 

What Should I Do When My Child Refuses to Read?

Once you are able to identify what turns your child off about books, you'll be able to think of ways of making them more interesting. 

For example, if children simply find the act of reading too difficult, try illustrating passages in a book to help them understand the story better. You could also use storytelling games where you change your voice for each character in order to get children engaged and interested in stories.

Using storytelling games is also useful because it allows children who may not enjoy reading on their own to participate more actively when part of a group activity. You can also implement some strategies to make reading more interesting and enjoyable for your child. 

How Can I Make Reading Interesting For My Child?

The task of transforming reading from a boring activity to one that is enjoyable and fun-filled for your child can be tricky, but it isn’t impossible. 

  • You can start by taking your child shopping for a few books. Don’t pressure them- just allow them to explore and roam around freely. Give them a little space and allow them to pick what they like. 
  • Next, create a dedicated bookshelf or storage space in their room or playroom. Get all their help setting it up and let them take the reign when it comes to choosing the color of the bookshelf, where they want it to be, and even how they want the books to be set up. 
  • Make reading a part of your child’s everyday routine. Set a few minutes every day where your child can pick out their favorite title from the bookshelf, sit down, and you both can read together. Growing children rely on routines, and you can use them to your advantage. 
  • Every day, ask your child questions about what they have read, and what they feel and think about it. This will help strengthen their memory and will also get them more interested in the activity itself. 
  • Create opportunities every day for your child to engage in reading, without actually pressuring them to do it. For instance, you both could try a new recipe together, and you can ask your child to read out the ingredients you’d need for the recipe. 
  • Create a rich literary environment at home. All this means is that you provide access to as many different types of texts; both written and visual as possible. This can include having things like books, magazines, newspapers, and artwork accessible at home.

Why is Reading With Your Child Important?

So reading is important, but what’s the deal with sitting down with the kiddo, and reading with them? Why is reading with your child emphasized so much? 

Well, it is because just like with playing, reading can strengthen the bond between you and your child. Not only does it enhance the level of closeness your child feels with you, but also encourages positive growth and development. 

Reading with your child also gives you the chance to experience a new world with them. When children associate reading with a relaxing and fun activity, they develop a lifelong love for it. 

How Do I Get My Child to Love Reading?

Reading out of routine is one thing, and reading out of the love of literature is another. Getting your child to love reading is a gradual process, especially if they haven’t been much of a reader yet- and you can get there. 

  • First of all, don't push your child towards reading if they aren't showing an interest in it. It won't work! 
  • Pressuring them into isolating themselves from their friends or extracurricular activities for a book isn't going to make them love reading, it'll make them frustrated with you AND reading. 
  • Remember that children are different – some will take naturally to a book while others will need more coaxing. Switch up your tactics at home and see what kind of results you get. 
  • Pick books that your child loves reading. Bring in variety. You can buy preloved books online and let your child pick their favorite titles to keep things more interesting. 
  • Don't just read, talk about the books together. Discuss what they liked or would have done differently.
  • Set aside some time to just sit and read every single day–with no distractions.
  • If your child finds it hard to put down the technology, let them choose to read on a Kindle or other e-reader instead of using a traditional paperback book.

Tips to Motivate Your Child to Read

Studies have found that independent readers, who are motivated and persistent about reading, can become better problem-solvers, more inquisitive students who ask probing questions about the world around them, and more articulate speakers. That’s exactly why it is so important to motivate your child to read, as much as you can. 

But then, how do you do it really? Well, here are a few tips to help you out. 

  • There is no age when it's too soon or too late to start building a home library of books. From board books, to picture books, to chapter books, get your hands on a variety of books to get your child interested. You can also check out your public library, as most libraries offer a wide selection of children's books to borrow.
  • You can also start with audiobooks. They can be an excellent pressure-free way to get your child interested in literature and push them towards embracing the world of books more readily. 
  • Create a reading corner for your child. Set up a tent with a mattress and a few cushions, and make it a cozy reading nook where your child can sit down with their favorite titles and spend some time reading. 
  • Visit a local library- this one can be another excellent way to get your child interested in reading. 
  • Look up activities and projects centered around some of their favorite books or characters to extend the stories beyond the page.

Six Activities Centered Around Reading

One of the best ways to make reading fun, and to reduce the anxiety or seriousness surrounding reading is to get your child engaged in activities revolving around books. Here are some ways you can do that.

  1. Invest in puppet books. They can be a great way to bring the characters of the book alive and make the story more fun and exciting. 
  2. Children love to draw and color. Look up some fun drawing and coloring activities for children which are themed around the book that they are reading. 
  3. If you’re looking to take things up a notch, you can also play dress-up and get your child to dress up as their favorite character from the book. Pretend play is always a great way to get children to engage in an authentic way. 
  4. To get older children to enjoy reading, you can create an activity where your child would have to narrate the story from the perspective of another character in the book. This exercise can also be a great lesson in empathy. 
  5. Another cool idea is to set aside a scrapbook that your child can use to use to narrate the story they just read, in their own way, with picture cutouts, stickers, and doodles. 
  6. You could also get your child to write a letter to their favorite character in the story. This is a great way to extend their creativity and can help your child connect with the characters on a deeper level. 

If you’re wondering what to do when a child refuses to read, and you really want to raise a voracious reader, implementing these tips and tricks can help.