I hear the words, "my child hates reading," often as a tutor. I grew up with a love of reading. I still read voraciously today as an adult. I'll admit I don't understand Gen X's obsession with online gaming and endless Youtube videos. As the mother of two sons, I have shaken my head with frustration more times than I care to admit while trying to get the 30 minutes of daily reading in. I've compromised and started encouraging Audiobooks. I'll admit that I have had my moments of extreme frustration where I wonder why students just don't seem to understand the appeal of a wonderful story.
The more that I research and learn about teaching reading to Gen Z students, the more I appreciate how different, more active, and more immediate their world is today from mine 30-40 years ago. Students today are active learners. When I first meet with students who are struggling with reading, I often ask the question, "What do you like about reading, or what don't you like about reading?" I usually receive an answer like, "It's boring. It's not fun. It's not entertaining. I don't like the books we have to read in school. It isn't interesting, or it isn't relevant to me." Engagement to a student today means something very different from engagement even one or two generations ago. Reading has to be engaging to our students. It has to be interesting and relevant. Our students still love stories, but they want to discover their own stories and find tales and learn about the things they are interested in. If possible, reading now should be a more interactive, participatory experience. Common Core ELA objectives teach students to actively read, think, and question the texts they are reading. Readers today also seem to be more visually oriented. Whether the writer's language is very visual (think translates well to the screen) like Rick Riordan or JK Rowling, or the writer chooses a graphic-novel style with fun drawings like Jeff Kinney and Diary of a Wimpy Kid, the key is hooking emerging readers through entertaining, visually appealing language with language students find familiar.
Here are some keys I have found to turn my students' reading angst into like or even love.
1. Let your student choose his/her own books. We want our students to connect to the books they choose to read.
2. Encourage quality of reading time over quantity. The important thing is that students choose to read because they want to rather than they have to.
3. Read with your student. Make time to read part of the book to your student, and to have your student read to you. Reading aloud is also a great strategy to boost reading skills.
4. Have discussions with your student about what they're reading, why they like or don't like the book. Sometimes, your student may be reading a book in school that brings up questions.
5. Model reading yourself. Our students learn more from what we do than what we say. If we read ourselves, and students see that that is important, they will be more likely to understand that reading is important.
If you suspect your student is a struggling reader, ask for help. I'm a certified, experienced tutor. I love to read. I love to help emerging learners read.