For a struggling reader, any activity involving reading might be met with great resistance, reluctance, or tantrums. As a parent, your main goal is to make the process less overwhelming and more enjoyable, but you may also feel pressure to improve your child’s reading skills test scores. What your child may need most are small successes to build confidence and motivate future reading. 

Add Creative Reading Inspiration

Children who read more often continue to read better, and vice versa, so knowing how to encourage your child to read is a powerful tool for their education. As reading and comprehension skills improve, learning across all subjects becomes easier and grades enjoy a boost. Below are a few fun and easy reading activities that can motivate students to read:

  • Design a reading space: Involve your child in creating a special reading space – or several! These can range from building a blanket fort, setting up an outdoor hammock swing, or even a unique reading nook somewhere in your home. Having a designated space to enjoy books can add to the experience.
  • Family book club: Choose an interesting book to captivate attention and read through one to two chapters a day as a family. Everyone will look forward to what happens next!
  • Offer interactive reading opportunities: You may be able to provide inspiration through interactive reading activities, such as choose-your-own-adventure books (where your child makes choices that affect the story), pop-up books (which bring fun to the reading experience), and screenplays that can be performed. If you are having a family campfire, read the start of a ghost story and take turns filling in what happens next!
  • Use interests: Take a trip to your local library or bookstore to browse different genres and topics. Encourage your child to find what catches their eye, then  embrace and build on those personal interests. For example, if your child is obsessed with a sport or loves a certain character, run with it. Even if your child begins by leafing through a book or having you read aloud, eventually your child may read—and even reread—something they feel a connection with.
  • Incorporate picture-based reading: We often think of picture books as only for our youngest readers, but if your child is struggling with reading, pictures can tell parts of a story that can’t yet be accessed through text. Older children may find reading inspiration from comic books and graphic novels that balance text and images to tell a story.

Remember, too, that reading motivation can be shared through adult role models. When your kids see you reading, they’ll notice that you value and enjoy reading too!  

Make Vocabulary Practice Interesting

Building vocabulary is a wonderful way to support reading. One simple way to do this organically at home is just by talking. You can also provide access to your child’s favorite stories as audiobooks. Vocabulary is essential to your child’s reading motivation and enjoyment because it allows them to understand what they are reading.Add some of these fun and simple reading activities to aid in your child’s vocabulary development:

  • Use games to increase vocabulary: Incorporate gameschooling into your routine. Word games such as Boggle, Scrabble, or Bananagrams (or the junior versions) are lots of fun. Open a dictionary randomly and choose a word to learn about. Award a point for each time your child can use the word in a sentence during the day. Maybe offer a reward once they collect a certain number of points in a week. Play “Name a Synonym” game by introducing a word and then working together to come up with a list of words that mean the same thing. Even if you look them up together, you are helping your child increase their vocabulary.
  • Use your child’s strengths and passions: Connect words to your child’s interests and the people, places, and concepts they already know. If your child is athletic, have them toss a ball, shoot baskets, or kick goals while reviewing vocabulary words. If your child likes computer games, there are plenty of online vocabulary games out there.
  • Make flashcards more fun: If you want to use flashcards for vocabulary practice, move beyond the show-stare-repeat method. Throw a few cards on the ground and have your child jump on each one while speaking the meaning of the word. Post vocabulary terms in key places around the house so your child sees and says the words and their meanings when at the sink, before opening the refrigerator, or when going outside. Then change the words when each group is mastered!
  • Build prior knowledge: Students understand a text more when they can connect what they are reading to what they already know. One great way to do this is by introducing new vocabulary words when engaging in new experiences (e.g., vacations, field trips, new hobbies, etc.). When you can’t get out there, bring novel experiences to your child through read-alouds, movies, and virtual field trips. Be sure to point out the new words whenever you can!

Motivate Reading Comprehension

“Why can’t I understand what I read?” For some kids, decoding in reading—or sounding out the words on the page—is challenging enough. Reading for understanding can be a whole other obstacle. The good news is that, with practice, your child can get better at understanding what they read. If you are already trying to increase reading motivation and expand your child’s vocabulary development, you are well on your way. Here are some additional ideas:

  • Practice listening comprehension: After your child listens to a story being read aloud (live or via audiobook) or watches a movie or television show, ask them comprehension questions like these: What was the story about (i.e., summarize the story)? Can you describe a character, the setting, or the plot? How did the character solve the problem? What does the story mean to you?
  • Provide opportunities to read with a purpose: For young kids, use words in the environment to reinforce how reading benefits our lives. For example, let your chef read the grocery list and recipe, have your athlete read the playbook, or task your gamer with reading tips for beating the next level. Involve your child in building a toy or piece of furniture by reading the directions, research fun ideas before a vacation, or read restaurant reviews and menus before eating out.
  • Read the book before the movie: You will be surprised how much reading inspiration arises when an older child is offered a movie night as reward for reading the book upon which the movie is based. Be sure to encourage lots of discussion afterwards!

Using a variety of different strategies and activities to engage your struggling reader can build confidence once small successes are achieved. This, in turn, increases motivation to read even more, builds comprehension, and boosts understanding. Take the pressure off both you and your child and have fun with learning!