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Help - how to get 8 year old to read

(56 Posts)
ReadingRefusnik Wed 04-May-16 22:05:04

DS has always been something of a reading refusnik (hence user name). He won't read more than a couple of pages without complaining that he's utterly exhausted (and frankly, after a day at school, I think he often genuinely is exhausted). There's nothing to suggested an underlying cause like dyslexia - when he reads aloud, he can clearly do it okay, he just really, really doesn't like doing it. He loves being read to (we've just finished all of the Harry Potter books), and asks what to me at any rate seem like very interesting questions about the books as we go along (and even critiques the author's style and plotting!). His written English is also fine - his teacher showed me one of his stories recently because she was so pleased with how inventive it was. He just won't read.

I really thought we'd turned a corner at Christmas though, when he started reading Roald Dahl for pleasure and actually asked for them for his birthday. But now his school have introduced the "Accelerated Reader" scheme, and we're right back to square one - he absolutely hates the books (his example tonight of why they were so bad was that they seemed to him to be really badly written with one of his pet hates, "'I'm Bob,' said Bob" and similarly redundant pieces of padding, featuring in the prose). As well as that, being required to do online comprehension tests for everything he reads seems to be completely sucking the fun out of it for him. He's terrified the teacher, head teacher and deputy head will get cross with him for not doing it, and is terrified of being put onto the bottom table (which to be honest might be the best thing if it got him books that were short enough that they didn't scare him - except that they're likely to be even more boring than the ones he's got at the moment).

He's frankly terrified of the current one - 200 pages long, we've had it since Easter, he's made next to no progress, and just seems utterly overwhelmed. I don't know what to do. I'm going to see the teacher tomorrow, but I'm not sure how much that will achieve as his regular teacher (who is lovely) is on long term sick leave, and this is a supply teacher who doesn't really seem up to the job (going both off what my son tells me and what other parents have said - she simply can't control the class).

Does anyone have any suggestions?

ReadingRefusnik Wed 04-May-16 22:25:54


Just watched their glossy promotional video and now I'm close to tears. (DS was crying earlier on). The reality of the effect it's having on him - confidence utterly destroyed, books he was enjoying reading, albeit in small amounts, taken away and replaced by ones he finds too long and dull into the bargain, utter panic about not being any good at reading - is just so different from all the claims that "this is the magic solution that will get all children reading" in the video.

RafaIsTheKingOfClay Wed 04-May-16 22:26:06

Who chooses the accelerated reader books? Does he do it from a selection or are they chosen for him? 200 pages for a reluctant reader is bound to put him off. If they won't let him change it, I'd be tempted to either read it to him or alternate pages just to get through it.

Normally with reluctant readers, it's a case of putting enough stuff in front of them until they find something they like. It may be a particular genre, author or topic. Some children that won't read fiction books will happily read non-fiction or comics and graphic novels.

I would definitely let them know that you feel the system is putting him off. They may be able to exercise a little bit of common sense.

TheTroubleWithAngels Wed 04-May-16 22:26:10

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

ReadingRefusnik Wed 04-May-16 22:35:50

Thanks for both sets of suggestions. Rafals, yes, I've tried a mix of fiction, non-fiction, comic books... And the alternate pages trick too. And Trouble, you've nailed my worries with your comment - I don't want to take the joy out of it for him. Yes, we do go to the library. And we have some audio books. I usually read to him for about half an hour a night.

I just feel at my wits end. That video clip stressed all the stuff I know already - that unless you read fluently and enthusiastically, you're screwed and your whole education will go down the pan. And that the top 10% read more than 40 minutes, and the bottom 10% read less than 2 minutes per day - guess which category DS is in? It's this terrible tension between knowing this, but also having this really strong gut instinct that if I try to force him into it when he really doesn't want to he'll end up hating books and hating school.

neolara Wed 04-May-16 22:42:35

I would abandon the reader and try and find him some books he'll actually enjoy. Has he tried Mr Gum? Wimpy kid books? Tom Gates? Beast quest? The Beano? How to train your dragon? Reading is meant to be fun. I wouldn't read stuff that bored me.

ReadingRefusnik Wed 04-May-16 22:50:00

neolara - yes, agree! (Though it's very unpredictable as to what DS gets grabbed by - he loves David Walliams, but doesn't like the Artemis Fowl books, which I thought he would love, or How to Train Your Dragon, which again I thought would be a sure-fire winner). The saddest thing of the lot is that last term I really thought we'd turned the corner on this, with Roald Dahl. But now he's back to being terrified/bored/lazy/just not wanting to read.

DonkeyOaty Wed 04-May-16 22:55:08

Stupid question but: have you had his eyes tested? One of mine had "tracking" issues (opposite of a squint) which we hadn't picked up ourselves. Optician spotted straight away! Reading was exhausting up til then. Given some simple eye exercises to do every day for a month or so which sorted the problem.

TheTroubleWithAngels Wed 04-May-16 22:59:51

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

ReadingRefusnik Wed 04-May-16 23:00:42

Thanks, Donkey, that's a good suggestion. We were last at the optician just before Christmas, and she seemed very thorough, but maybe I'd have had to mention reading difficulties before she spotted anything. I wonder whether it's worth going again.

ReadingRefusnik Wed 04-May-16 23:04:21

Trouble - instruction manuals sound like a cunning plan! And you cross posted with Donkey on the eye possibility. Most of his teachers and TAs comment on his wide vocabulary and general knowledge, so that bit's okay (as is his written English - bizarrely, I think he's now in the top group for writing and maths, at the same time as he is really struggling and looks like he might drop down into the bottom group for reading - the contrast between his writing and his reading is really, really puzzling).

I'm planning to leave work a little bit early tomorrow - DS has football practice, so I can have a word with the teacher while he's busy doing something else.

DonkeyOaty Wed 04-May-16 23:11:09

Hmmmmmm you've been to optician recently. A chat with the teacher is a great idea - see if they have any thoughts and maybe ask if the SENCO can have a think too

Good luck. flowers

CodyKing Wed 04-May-16 23:15:59

Type in reluctant reader into Google -

There were some helpful hints - one was schools having a boys only section for books - and a male led reading group - male authors or readers to come into class -

Do you have any handy makes around who could discuss books etc? It does make a high difference seeing males read -

LittleFluffyClouds43 Wed 04-May-16 23:26:11

My son is 9, nearly 10, so a bit older but he sounds similar ro your son, has no interest in reading, yet has a great vocab which amazes me. He finds alot of books stupid and interest in Harry Potter, Beast Quest, David Walliams, Artemis Fowl, Sculduggery Pleasant.....but he loves reading Peanuts/ Snoopy! So although I would rather he read 'proper' books, I always remember reading somewhere that we should encourage them to read Anything, just to build their confidence and love of reading. He also loves Beano. Anyway, very recently we have finally hit on some books he loves.....Swiss Family Robinson, Black Beauty ( altho he found that a bit hard going!) Now he is on The Railway Children and Loves it! I am going to try the Secret Garden next. He is an old little soul and knows exactly what he likes. Reading has to be enjoyable. The poor guy, I hope things improve soon

ReadingRefusnik Wed 04-May-16 23:30:42

I know there can be issues with boys reading, but not in this instance, I think, Cody - he certainly sees the males in his life reading for pleasure, and interestingly, his peer group and close friends are actually very good and enthusiastic readers (in fact, one of the things that is upsetting him is that he can see himself falling behind his friends).

Thanks, Donkey - definitely good to get lots of suggestions (and flowers!)

I'm not completely ruling out the possibility of visual problems. This seemed pretty informative, and does make the point that most standard eye tests are geared round distance vision problems, not close work. On the other hand, his writing is good (both letter formation and content) and he loves drawing and seems to have no problems with that. I think there's a possibility there might be tracking problems or saccade problems - he does use a finger, and does tend to get lost in lines of text sometimes, both horizontally across the page, and losing track of which line he's on as he goes down the page.

ReadingRefusnik Wed 04-May-16 23:34:11

Cloud - sounds like you're going through something very similar - hope your DS gets there too! Isn't it funny how unpredictable what grabs them is? Even with the same author - DS loved all of Enid Blyton's Adventure series, but has no interest in the Famous Five or Secret Seven.

Cressandra Thu 05-May-16 00:34:05

Interesting thread. The system sounds sooo much too much for him, I hope your talk with the teacher helps. FWIW my older DD hated HTTYD and Artemis Fowl but she's a Harry Potter nut. Have you tried Caroline Lawrence's books? DD liked the Roman Mysteries series but she has other series which might appeal more to your DS.

A recent breakthrough with DS (7) has been a beautiful children's encyclopedia. We are slogging through his reading homework (fiction) by bribing him with encyclopedia reading. It does feel completely counter-productive to be making him slog through 50 pages a week of fiction he's not interested in, but I'm out of other ideas. It's taken me ages to find a book he's interested in. I think he likes the encyclopedia partly for all the pictures - picture books are still appealing at 8, and they might even still go for lift the flap books like Usborne See Inside. Guiness Book of Records and similar are popular in this age group but the text can be small.

Do you have a DH around? Along the lines of Cody's suggestion, might your son get on better reading with his dad?

It is brilliant that you read to him and very important, but could half an hour daily possibly be too much on top of all the reading at school and his homework? just trying to think up new angles.

mrz Thu 05-May-16 07:00:00

SueGeneris Thu 05-May-16 07:11:20

Has he tried the L Pichon Tom Gates books? My 8 yo DS has laughed his socks off at these. The format is non traditional and very visual. Hard to describe if you haven't seen them but might be worth a try reading to him and see if he wants to read on himself?

ReadingRefusnik Thu 05-May-16 07:42:00

mrz - thanks for that link. It very much confirms my worst fears, and kind of sums up the impression I'd got talking to DS about his experience of using the scheme and mine reading it - my off-the-cuff feeling on looking at the AR website was "oh god, yet another algorithm for trying to replace genuine learning and teaching with a tick box approach to 'have we attained the right arbitrary level yet?'"

This quote from your link, "Using AR tends to takes up significant instructional time. Students have to wait their turn to take quizzes on the classroom computer(s) or the teacher has to march the class down to the library or computer lab to allow the students to do so," was almost word-for-word (albeit in 8 year old language) what my DS said to me in the midst of his tears last night - it takes ages to switch the computer on, wait for your turn, log on, get the right set of questions...

And it's so frustrating because I know from the questions and comments he makes when I read aloud to him that he understands texts, he really has (I think) a sophisticated understanding of texts for his age. So (couple of years back) when reading Enid Blyton, he picked up on the formulaic nature of the plots and said "What's the betting the treasure turns out to be in the same set of caves they're hiding in?" He complains about JK Rowling always using the same adverbs for her characters (Dumbledore always speaks calmly, Voldemort always speaks in a high, cold voice), about half way into the Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe he suddenly announced "Aslan's the Dumbledore character in this book - is he going to die in the last book?" (I kind of smiled inwardly at this point and thought to myself "sooner than you think, mate, in the next chapter in fact").

Cressandra - good spot reading between the lines of what I haven't said... yes, I am a lone parent. Though DS's grandad is very involved in his upbringing and absolutely loves books and reading. The half an hour to an hour isn't too much I think, because he really, really enjoys it - in fact although I'm aware that one strategy for encouraging reading is to get them half way through a book they love then leave them to it, I'm loathe to do that becauses I really don't want to take away the one book-related activity (me reading aloud) that DS really loves.

Sue (love the username) - thanks for the suggestion, I'll look those out.

Cressandra Thu 05-May-16 08:24:06

Fair enough Reading. I actually didn''t guess from your post - or otherwise assume - that you were a lone parent.

IslaSinga Thu 05-May-16 08:38:00

Personally I wouldn't ask him to read the boring school books if he isn't enjoying them. I would encourage Roald Dahl or anything else that gets him interested! My Ds only started enjoying reading at the end of y3 - he fell in love with Diary of a wimpy kid and hasn't looked back! smile

Cressandra Thu 05-May-16 09:58:41

Changing his current book hopefully shouldn't be too much of an issue, and that should help considerably.

Have you tried taking it in turns? So DS's school reading book - the 50 pages a week one - he doesn't read it all aloud to an adult. Mostly, I read one page and DS the next, or he gets to pick which of the next couple to do, and of course he chooses the shorter page! Sometimes he does a few extra pages in his head at the end. His motivation is the encyclopedia, or various fun things he gets to do in the school reading slot, once his school book is done for the week. It is not making him love reading, but it does lessen the burden.

Similarly, if your DS is engaged in the book you read to him, could you get him to read a tiny portion of it? Just the odd page, or paragraph even, and build it up slightly while you still do the large majority of it.

It sounds like he's doing really well in the big picture.

Mamabear12 Thu 05-May-16 10:16:16

Have you checked his eyes? Perhaps he needs glasses. Even if it is just a minor eye change it could cause him to get tired or get headaches while reading. I would check this out asap.

lavenderdoilly Thu 05-May-16 10:22:44

Try the Artemis Fowl books done as Graphic novels. Tom Gates Wimpy Kid too. My dd is bored witless by the books she is given at school but I log the above ones for teacher benefit as she reads them.

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