Help them to learn...
In my experience – although this is not always the case - boys can take longer to show an interest in formal learning. Because their interests lie elsewhere, they can sometimes be a little slower when it comes to reading and writing. They may be able to concentrate very hard on activities of their own choosing but have little patience for sitting down to try and interpret some letters, or use a pen to write them.
Whether your child is a boy or a girl, it is important not to panic if he or she is shows little interest in reading.
Some young children can start running the other way if you bring out worksheets. My own little boy – who is just about to start Reception - is proving to be a classic case. He hardly ever chooses to do writing activities and needs to be shown how to hold a pencil every time he picks one up! Although he does enjoy reading, he will only do so for short periods of time. My solution has been to make learning fun, and to carry on for as long as he shows an interest.
Activities to inspire the more active child
• Make an easily accessible writing area. Change the materials around to stimulate interest in mark-making. Keep old boxes and packaging to use for model-making.
• Word and letter fridge magnets, spongy bath letters and crayons are great for word play.
• Play games such as I Spy, Bingo, Hangman, Alphabet Snap and Junior Scrabble. DK and Orchard Press produce some fantastic games. One of my favourites is DK’s Silly Sentences.
• Embrace your child’s interests. Don’t throw out old comics, birthday cards or kids magazines! Use the pictures to make a simple book. Write simple sentences using common short words, such as the, a, is, at, he, she, of, on. Or help your child try to write them. Use old photos to make an album of friends, family and holidays and write short captions or attach speech bubbles. DK Readers make books with easy words based on favourite superheroes and characters such as Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.
• Use post-it notes to label things around the house or even parts of the body. Write rhyming words on new post-its like 'mighty light' and 'more door'. Use post-its to make a treasure hunt with simple words such as up, the, on, under, by.
• Some kids thrive on competition. Play bingo for chocolate chips or raisins. Hit the ball or spray with a water gun on a word or letter for points. Play Go/Stop with letter or word cards. Children can run until told to stop. Children can read a card and draw it in the air.
• Exercises that involve hand-eye coordination are excellent for improving writing skills. Plastic tweezers, threading, cutting, dough, paperclip chains, Lego and pegging all help strengthen finger muscles and improve coordination. Make an obstacle course that involves balancing, crawling through tunnels or hopping. Play hopscotch, games with balls such as bouncing, catching rolling hitting targets and bowling. Move to music. Touch the opposite knee with your hand, draw circles in the air with both hands, hop, skip and crawl!
• Although electronic educational toys, such as those produced by Vtech and Leapad, may drive you potty (me included!) they might be just the thing to turn your child onto reading and writing. Make sure that phonics (letter sounds) is taught rather than just alphabet names.
• There are plenty of good phonic games online and learning mouse and keyboard skills can also help improve coordination (although you may want to limit how much time is spend on the computer). Cbeebies, Sesame Street and PBS Kids all have websites with some great games.
Last but not least, talk to your child’s teacher. He or she will offer advice about the next step and hopefully qualm any worries you may have.
It is perfectly normal for very young children to show little interest in reading and writing. Let your child set the pace.
What books help your reluctant readers to learn? Tell us here!