Your kid can’t or won’t read books, right? I hear ya.
This is a situation that does not call for a major overhaul of all your family habits. Instead, you can choose among the following seven minor but magical adjustments that will seduce a reluctant reader over time. The throughline here is patience and good humor.
1. Say “OK, you can watch TV”–but with closed captioning instead of sound. (Remember to pocket the remote.)
2. Say “OK, you can play your DS”–but make it Pokemon or another game that requires some reading. (The life-span of this tactic is short, as he will go by memory in no time; if anyone knows good games with lots of reading/word-recognition, let us know in a comment!)
3. Say, “OK, you can stay up an hour past bedtime”–but only with a book, in bed. With an older kid the incentive might have to be ramped up to “You can stay up as long as you want.”
4. Schedule read-aloud time as an alternative to a less-popular activity, like folding laundry or quiet playtime. Reading to a kid in the bath is always good, though sitting on the bathroom floor is mighty hard on the lower back. Select books way below your own personal tastes, like Captain Underpants.
5. Captain Underpants. What can I say? This series is so seductive for young readers of both genders, it needs its own entry in the list.
6. When reading aloud, put your heart and soul into the show. Develop an array of funny voices. Gesticulate. Overdramatize, without a shred of irony in your tone. Never show boredom or fatigue.
7. Pick books with cliffhangers. At the end of each chapter, something should happen that makes the kid want you to keep reading. Once he gets used to this pattern and falls for it every time, you can put the book in his hands and leave the room. (But make sure you’re back the next time, so he never worries that solo reading will replace together-reading. You’d be amazed how old a kid can get before he’s sick of being read to).