My son Jack was smart and outgoing. He got great grades. But he liked reading books about as much as he liked walking behind our two yellow labs on clean-up duty. He was way more interested in movies, TV, video games. At first, I wasn’t too worried. But his vocabulary and writing skills began to slip. I decided to do something.
JEFF’S 10 TIPS FOR REACHING YOUR RELUCTANT READER
Set up time to read with them. There’s always time. Sometimes you just have to carve it out of something else.
Have them read out loud. You’ll know better where they are getting hung up. Kids often avoid reading because they think they’re not good at it. Find out.
Read with a pencil. Underline words your reader has a tough time pronouncing or can’t define. Transfer to a separate page later.
Make them feel safe. Set the ground rules. Let them know that you didn’t know a lot of words when you were young. Confide that there are still words that you don’t know. There’s no judgment in the reading club.
Use books that are fun, easy reads at first. An author who ends each chapter with a white-knuckled cliffhanger helps.
Only let them read that book in your sessions. Make it special and use the cliffhanger to get them excited for the next session. Encourage a separate book to read outside the reading sessions if they are getting the bug.
Relate to the book. Figure out how your reader’s life relates to the characters. This helps critical thinking and makes it fun.
Write your own stories. They don’t have to be novels. But put your reader into the story, even if it’s just their name. Have fun with it.
Be consistent. Once you set this appointment, nothing can touch it. Nothing.
Have fun! This isn’t school, it’s supposed to be fun. You might be surprised. I didn’t expect to like the Harry Potter books but I loved them. Outside of writing Jack Templar, I had my own burst of reading. It was great fun and the more the boys saw me with a book in my hand, the more likely they were to do the same. The quiet mornings with my boys became some of my favorite times with them. I hope you can experience the same.
I created the Early Morning Book Club. That was my name anyway. To Jack, I’m sure it was the Early Morning Torture Club. The plan was that we’d get up early and Jack would read out loud to me for an hour. Luckily for him, his younger brother wanted in on the action, so Jack and Will read on alternating days. I taught the boys a lesson my fourth-grade teacher (the very British Mrs. Harvey) instilled in me: read with a pencil. Jack and Will underlined the heck out of words they didn’t know and created a running vocabulary list.
On Sunday night of the first week, I heard the boys fighting about whose turn it would be to read on Monday morning. It sounded just like their arguments about whose turn it was to take out the trash. My little experiment was failing. I sucked it up and prepared to change course. But before I turned the corner from my eavesdropping hideout, I realized an amazing thing. Jack wanted it to be his turn. So did Will.
Ah, the sweet smell of temporary success.
I say “temporary” because I only had a good three weeks of this honeymoon. The newness wore off. I wondered if I was just making reading a chore. I needed to do something to make it more exciting.
I decided I’d write something that Jack and Will couldn’t help but get sucked into: a story about two boys, Jack and his best friend Will (see how that works?), who become monster hunters. I wrote up the first chapter, introduced the main characters, and ended with a fight scene and a whopper of a cliffhanger. It was Jack’s turn to read when my story made its debut. He was hooked. The buzz was back in the Early Morning Book Club. I had a lot of writing to do.
In time, Jack Templar Monster Hunter was born. My wife, Nicole, ever-supportive throughout this entire journey, encouraged me to publish it. So did friends and family. I decided to use Kindle Direct Publishing to put the book into the world.
The reception was more than we could have ever hoped for. Our family has read all 152 of the reviews from Amazon customers. We high-fived when the book became a Foreword Reviews Book of the Year Finalist. We took a screenshot of Jack Templar on an Amazon category bestseller list right next to Percy Jackson and Harry Potter.
I’ve gone on to write more Jack Templar books as well as two novels for adults. Our experience with the Early Morning Book Club inspired me to write Reaching Your Reluctant Reader, a short book with all proceeds benefiting the Toys For Tots Literacy Program.
I’m grateful for Kindle Direct Publishing, CreateSpace, and Jack Templar. Especially Jack Templar. He made my Jack want to read books. And I can’t think of any better gift than that.
Jeff Gunhus is one of thousands of authors being discovered by Amazon customers.