How to Motivate Your Child to Practice Reading

BY ARI FERTEL

This article is for parents of struggling readers only. If your child is a grade-level reader, you may not find this article relevant.

Yesterday afternoon we got word that my 12-year-old daughter won 2nd place in an international violin competition and was selected to play at Carnegie Hall.

A few hours later my husband and I were at a dinner party and someone asked, “When did you know that your daughter had a gift?”

My response: “It’s not a gift; it’s hard work.”

In retrospect, I feel bad that I didn’t express gratitude for her God-given ability. Without it, the only way she’d get into Carnegie Hall is with a ticket.

But my instinctive response was valid too; mastery requires practice, a lot of practice.

In the case of reading, a child’s natural ability can accelerate or impede their progress, but in the end it’s their work ethic that will determine their level of competency.

You can hire all the tutors you want and buy every reading program on the market, but if your child doesn’t practice reading (supervised) for at least 30 minutes/day, then it’ll all be a waste.

And don’t let anyone tell you that there’s something wrong with your child and that they need this or that in order to learn to read. Children with learning disabilities, ADD, ADHD, and dyslexia can learn to read. You know how? Practice! Of course, as I’ve written about many times, it has to be supervised practice and include real-time corrective feedback, but ultimately practice breeds proficiency.

So how do you get your child to practice?

If your child is using Reading Buddy Software, then you know that one way is to use the Reading Buddy Point & Prize Motivation System. But today, I want to talk to you about another way to motivate your child to practice.

If you’re reading this it means that your child is a below-average reader. Therefore, by asking them to practice reading, you’re asking them to do something they’re not good at. And you’re asking them to do it over and over again.

How would you like do something you’re not good at over and over?

It’s not easy.

But, it’s an important life-skill.

Everyone has weaknesses. Some of them can be ignored. For example, if I’m not musically inclined, I can ignore the violin. So I’ll never play in Carnegie Hall. So what!

But everyone has weaknesses that cannot (or at least should not) be ignored. For example, let’s say I have a selfish inclination and am not good at relationships. I can’t ignore that. I have a husband, children, relatives, work colleagues, and friends. The quality of my life, the extent of my contribution on Earth, and my legacy depends on me improving my relationship skills. I have to practice. It won’t be fun if I’m not good at, but I have to practice nonetheless.

Practicing what you’re not good at despite the lack of enjoyment is an important life-skill. If your child is a struggling reader, they’ll need to learn this life-skill.

And who’s going to teach it to them?

You!

This isn’t a subject taught in class. There’s no tutor you can hire. This is character development. And character children learn from their parents. When it comes to this life-skill, YOU are their teacher.

So how do you teach this life-skill?

You teach this life-skill to your child the same way you teach any life-skill to your child—by example!

Let’s be honest: children don’t do what we say; they do what we do.

In the words of Ralph Waldo Emerson, “Who you are speaks so loudly I can’t hear a word you say.”

That’s parenting 101.

Do you want to your child to be motivated to practice reading even though it’s hard for them? Here’s my advice: pick something that’s hard for you and let them see you pursue mastery of it. Find something you’re not good at, let your child know that you’re committed to improving, and start practicing regularly.

In most homes everyone avoids doing what they’re not good at. The problem is—your child can’t do that now. Your child has to practice for 30 minutes a day something that’s not easy for them. Not only is that hard; it’s a lonely experience. It’s not generally something a child sees others doing. Inside your child might be asking, “Why me? Why do I have to do this? Why isn’t everyone working on something that’s hard? What’s wrong with me? Why am I different?”

You can end your child’s loneliness. You can make this a little easier for them emotionally. Join them! Share your child’s experience. Pick a weakness and commit to a practice regimen.

Are you bad with languages? Practice speaking Spanish.

Are you uncoordinated? Practice a dance routine.

Are you tone deaf? Practice singing on key.

Are you all thumbs? Practice building models.

Children do what they think is normal. And normal is what they see at home. Change the norm in your home. Make your home a place where people work on their weaknesses. That’ll motivate your child to work on their weakness; it’ll motivate them to read.

As I mentioned, Reading Buddy Software has a built-in “points and prize” system that motivates children to read for 30 minutes a day (supervised by Reading Buddy Software). Want to see how it works? Go here.

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Ari Fertel

President & Founder

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