How can I get my grandson to read?

Our grandson and his single parent mother live with us at home. He will be entering 3rd grade this fall but seems to be reading at a level below his grade. He gets very upset, sometimes to the point of tears, when we try to have him practice his reading. My wife has read stories to him from early on in hopes that that would get him interested, but it seems to have had little effect.

Any parents out there who have dealt with this problem?

I’d be interested in either home solutions or recommendations for extra instruction outside of school.

I’ve never been a parent. I was an avid reader for as long as I’ve known how to read. So I’m certainly not one to give advise on this subject. Anyway…

The first book I really remember was a Japanese Donald Duck book. I couldn’t read it, of course; but I liked the pictures and I knew to ‘read’ it from right to left. My parents had ‘coffee table books’ of Japan and Hong Kong. I liked looking at the pictures, and reading the captions. As In elementary school I had Psycho and Weird War Tales comic books. Mad too. The teachers would read to us in school, and we were to follow along in our books. I liked the stories (Fun With Dick And Jane to start, plus Curious George and others).

When I was about eight years old we were exposed to The Scholastic Press. Now that I’m older and cynical, I see that it was a marketing scam to get money from parents. But I got to choose my own books. I remember getting a Snoopy cartoon book, and a WWII adventure about kids in Norway foiling the Germans called Snow Treasure. When I was eight I was reading one of my ‘weird’ comic books. The story was about microbes that grew to enormous size. The reproduced so rapidly that they were using up all of the oxygen in the atmosphere. (At the end, a politician who was involved in funding the microbe research is confronted by a knife-wielding scientist who wants to cut him open. ‘After all,’ the scientist says, ‘Everybody knows politicians are full of hot air!’ Dah-da, dah-da, DAH-DA!) One panel of the comic featured a line from E.A. Poe’s The Conqueror Worm: ‘But see amid the mimic route, a crawling shape intrude! A blood-red thing that writhes from out the scenic solitude!’ That turned me on to Poe, and I started reading him.

So as you see, I’ve always had an interest. Maybe it was the pictures? Maybe I just liked the stories, and I wanted to read more than was being read to us? Perhaps something like Harry Potter may provide a spark?

Have one of his little friends give him a book that looks fun.

That’s what happened to me when I was about that age. I went from not reading to reading my parents nearly into bankruptcy. I remember the first book, it was the Three Investigators series, “Case of the Roaring Lion” or something. Hardy Boys knock-off. I have a monstrous appetite for books to this day.

Kids are brats. You tell him to do something, it’s like making him eat his spinach. One of his cool friends does it, and suddenly it’s the best thing in the world.

(I’m not a parent though, sorry if you wanted names of tutoring programs.)

Try banning television and movies from the household, or limiting it to 45 minutes a day total.

Has he been tested for learning disorders? Even mild dyslexia could make him quite frustrated with reading. My sister is dyslexic and she positively hates reading – quite understandably.

Ditto the testing; he may have a reading problem that can be corrected quite easily.

I’ve always been a reader; don’t know why. My parents read to us (adult books) even when we were young. The first book I remember “reading” is Watership Down – I was younger than your grandson when it was read to me. Also, we had strict bedtimes, but were permitted to stay up 15 minutes later if we were reading. At his age, I think it was like a 7 or 7:30 bedtime, which was extended for reading only if I were fully ready for bed and in bed at bedtime, then I got to read in bed for 15 minutes. As a kid, it was totally worth it, so all of us would rush to be ready for bed on time just to get to stay up late!

Also, we were very restricted in our television watching. We lived in England in the 70s/80s, so there really wasn’t much in the way of choices of things to watch on TV the way there are now (I think we got only three or four channels). Nevertheless, while I lived in my parents’ house (i.e., until I turned 18), we were permitted one hour of television a day on schoolnights, and one and a half hours of television a day on weekends. All the kids had to agree on what to watch; if you didn’t want to use “your hour” to watch something someone else was watching, you had to leave the room. This was, of course, mostly before videos. Once we had the capacity to watch videos, they counted as part of our tv watching (unless the 'rents gave us special dispensation, which, as I recall, we got for things like special occasion showings of Wizard of Oz, Sound of Music, etc.)

The other thing that I recall is that my parents read. A lot. So we saw that around us all the time, and dinner table conversation revolved around what they’d read in the paper, magazines, books – it was all around.

What does your grandson like to do? Perhaps you can find books or magazines at or near his level that fit with his interests, like video games, or animals, or sports. I also recommend seeing if you can read to him more. He may be feeling pressured about the reading himself, but if you read to him then, as others suggested, he may become more interested in picking up the books himself. Best of luck.

I don’t remember learning to read. My family found out I could read when I was about four and a half, but who knows how long I’d been able to before that. But early reading is something of a family trait, so I doubt anybody was exactly surprised.

Yes, testing for any underlying problems would be a good idea, but I have to chime in on the side of finding out what he’s interested in. If he’s into sports, say, a few books about sports might just be the ticket. A lot of the stuff I had to read in school was booooooring. A book he’s interested in just might do the trick.

I still get a giggle every time I read one of Dr. Seuss’ books! Your grandson will truly enjoy his reading experiences with any of the Seuss collection… my fav is still “Green Eggs and Ham” :smiley: then there’s “I can Red with My Eyes Shut!”

I used to despise reading books. My mom got re-married and my new dad and his two sons must’ve given me 10 books on our first Christmas together. I thought it was the worst Christmas ever.

Frankly what turned the trick for me was sheer boredom. Mind you this was back in the day before video games, PCs, the internet and 200 television channels. There were five television stations and they all were off the air around midnight or so. One night, bored out of my skull, I decided to pick up a book and give it a shot. After that it was all over for me and I’ve been an avid reader ever since.

These days I am not sure how you go about inflicting boredom on a kid without it seeming like you are punishing them but if you can manage it the kid might pick up a book on their own. To get them hooked though you somehow have to stumble across something they might like. Not sure if 3rd grade is too young for it yet but I found The Phantom Tollbooth to be a good one young kids seem to like.

One other thing you might try is a glitzy encyclopedia. My brothers got me an all in one (i.e. one massive volume rather than a dozen separate ones) encyclopedia that was chock full of full color photos and illustrations. While not exactly something you just sit and read I used to like going to it to look up this or that and often would find myself engrossed for awhile as I went off on various tangents that seemed interesting at the time. It never felt like “reading” as it was more like the written equivalent of sound bites but of course I was reading.

Take him to a book store and let him choose two books that he wants to read;don’t worry about his reading level. If he’s interested in a picture book from the adult section let him have it. If he seems interested in this, keep going with it.
What are his interests?
My daughter wasn’t much of a reader either when she was younger but she loved horses. She’d pick out horse books and study them, even books that were far above her reading level.

I agree on limiting time on tv but don’t say it’s punishment because he’s not reading on level, or something like that. If he’s really not limited now, maybe gradually wean him off the stuff.

One thing about video games. There are some excellent reading programs out there. Every year early on we got the Reader Rabbits, but I specifically remember “Third Grade Adventures” because she loved it so much. It wasn’t exclusive to reading comprehension but it covered that too.

Speaking of comprehension, is that his problem? Or does he have more difficulty reading aloud?

Has he been professionally evaluated? He may have a mild learning disorder. Have him tested!!

While you’re at it, get his eyesight tested. He could be long-sighted and having problems focusing on the page.

I’ll second this, and the testing.

Try reading to him, in a relaxed & affectionate environment, like a bedtime story. It will help him gain a positive view of reading.

I don’t think limiting television and other forms of entertainment will be an effective method for the kid to learn how to read. It could just make him lose even more motivation to read.

Does the child ever play video games? As strange as it seems, I know some people that literally learned how to read because of video games. They played a large role in my own reading development as well.

A very small practical tip that I’ve found helpful with my kids, to try to make reading fun for them is to pretend I’m having trouble reading certain worms… worlds… wurrr… worcestershire sauce!
I do this all the tripe… try… tithe… timothy… err… all the time, that is, with my kids - they not only find it funny (or they just roll their eyes), but they enjoy correcting me; even though they fully understand that I’m just mucking about, they seem to relish the chance to get ‘one up’ on dad.

I suppose it’s a play-acting way to reverse the roles; let the kids act like the mature supervisors of the silly, immature adults.

I would second the advice to get him tested. This doesn’t seem like boredom or lack of interest but frustration at a lack of ability, either due to a learning disorder or vision problem or even simple failure of the school system to actually teach him how.

My mother kept an occasional journal for many years. One of the items she thought worth recording was my response to a comment she made about me reading the back of a cereal box instead of eating my breakfast - “But, Mummy, I can’t look at it and not read it!”. I was 4.

I’m not assuming anything about how you have him practice, but do your best not to make it a punishment. Don’t make everyday things contingent on finishing a certain amount of reading; for example, “No TV until you read 10 pages.” That may seem like an insurmountable task, and then he might not even get to watch his favorite show because he just can’t finish all that horrible, horrible reading before it comes on. What you might do is say, “We’re going to read together for half an hour, and then we’ll watch TV.” Put a definitive limit on the amount of time he has to spend at the “chore,” and let him know he’ll still get to see his show even if he has a tough time reading tonight. That way, he won’t have cause to blame “reading” for making him miss out on the stuff he really wants to do.

I’m no expert but I agree with the suggestions here that it’s probably time to have him tested. And that for his practice, you might find books on things he’s very interested in.

My kids (ten year old son and 14 year old daughter) are both avid readers. I used to read to them every night, and they would “follow along” even before they could actually read.

I have always had a policy where I will purchase any book they want. We are in the book store at least once a week and one or the other (or both) usually pick out a book. There have been times where I had to dig deep for the cash, but books have always been right up there with food and shelter.

How is it a scam? They’re selling books, buy them or don’t. Pretty straightforward, and the school library gets free books for participating.

I grew up in a house with parents who read. My mom took us to the library every Saturday. I always had books of my own, and I have been an avid reader for as long as I can remember. I don’t think that came from any innate love of reading or god-given skills. I believe that reading was behavior I saw modeled by my parents as an important activity, and I was just naturally drawn to it.

My kids are all voracious readers, too. We have bookcases in every room of our house, and make regular trips to the library and bookstore. And yes, we sometimes order books from the scholastic book clubs.

I say all of this, not because I like to talk about myself, but to explain why I think it’s important to create an environment where reading is a vital activity. If the other people in the house don’t read, kids won’t think it’s important. If it’s treated as a chore, they’ll resist. Kids learn their behavior from the adults around them.

And cheers to **vertbridge ** for the bookstore policy. Do I [*B]need *** to buy each of my kids their own copy of the new Harry Potter book? Nope, the fact that I will (at midnight tonight) sends them a pretty strong message.

My dad used to do this, too! I have very fond memories of correcting him. Thanks for the trip down memory lane :slight_smile:

How do you do these practice sessions? If it’s too much of a drill-and-practice style, it might be upsetting him. I have social anxiety, and that sort of thing used to upset me a great deal as a child.