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What to do when your kid hates reading

Carolyn Rahaman is a professional SSAT tutor and contributing writer for Varsity Tutors. She holds a Master's degree in Learning Sciences from Northwestern University.

Does your child detest reading? This is not an uncommon problem, and it is also one that can be overcome with a few helpful tips.

Perhaps your preteen struggles with reading comprehension. Perhaps she would rather watch television or play video games. Whatever her reason, ensuring your student completes her assigned reading is an uphill battle, and asking her to simply read for pleasure might be challenging. Regardless, your child must possess strong reading skills to do well in high school, on standardized tests and in college, so insisting that she read is a necessity.

Ultimately, you must hook your student on reading. Once she discovers a book she likes, that joy may spread to different genres, until it permeates even her school assignments. That perfect book can open the door to a lifelong love of reading.

Now, the difficult part is finding that book. Here are several suggestions to consider.

1. Choose topics that interest your preteen

Your child may love airplanes, dragons or eyeliner. Begin with books that involve these topics so that there is already an aspect present that will hold your student's attention. Do not just encourage her to read books; suggest magazines or blogs that might strike her interest as well. If there are movies or television shows she likes, look for novelizations or stories with similar themes. In addition, search for books with protagonists to which she can relate.

2. Allow your preteen to select reading material

Encourage your student to choose her own books. Do not roll your eyes at her choices, or tell her to pick a book that is better or more academic. This kind of derision communicates to your preteen that she is approaching reading incorrectly. It may convince her to give up or it may strengthen her dislike for the activity. Of course, it is up to you to set boundaries about what is suitable for your child to read, and you should certainly ensure that what she selects is age-appropriate. However, there is a difference between, "This is too violent," and, "This is not Hamlet, and it is therefore drivel."

3. Discuss what she reads

The more your student talks about what she reads, the more excited she may be about it. She will also develop her text analysis skills. Speak with your preteen about what she is reading and what she thinks of it. Consider enrolling your child in a book club so she can interact with students who are her own age. Prompt her to investigate popular books that her friends are reading so she can participate in the conversation. Encourage her to write reviews about what she reads on websites like Goodreads or Amazon.

4. Keep an eye out for recommendations

Remember the books you liked at your preteen's age, and ask your child to inquire with her friends or local librarian for recommendations. Then, once she identifies a book she likes, look for similar reading material. Stay within the same genre or with the same author for a bit before branching out. Once she starts to enjoy reading, keep up the momentum. Keep her choosing books, but understand that (just like people who love to read) she might not like or finish every selection she makes. Maintain an open mind, and keep exploring.

For more tips and strategies to help your student succeed in school, visit www.varsitytutors.com.

Photo credit: Abel Mitja Varela/E+/Getty Images
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