There is a time, in a child’s developmental path when they go from struggling to read short picture books to flying through them. There is also a time when your kid goes from taking a few days to read a simple chapter book to reading it in one sitting. Those library trips that used to last you a week or two now only last you a day or two. It is at this time, the difficulty and or length of the book should be bumped up a notch.
But how, when your kiddo doesn’t want to?
I have gone through this with both my boys, and am about to go through it again with my younger son. Transitioning your kiddo from the books they know, are comfortable with, and feel confident with to ones that look GINORMOUS and impossible to read to them can be quite a challenge.
My older boy was a difficult one to transition up. He had struggled for so long to just read a
single word. And then to read and understand a short sentence, to read what was on one page in a simple book. Then a whole picture book and struggled to fully understand what the story was about. Every little step was extremely difficult for him. His eyes wouldn’t focus on the words and wouldn’t track straight across the page very well when he was young. Most of his time was spent properly sounding out the words, then properly reading a sentence, then putting them together to read the full page but his mind was not “hearing” what he was reading because he was so focused on just seeing and sounding it out. I think he was 10 years old before we felt he was ready to try books that were not short simple picture books. Unfortunately, when we tried to hand him a very short, early readers chapter book with lots of pictures in it, he shut down.
When you know your child can do more, how do you get them to believe it?
With my older boy, we decided to try comic books. No, they are not chapter books but they use a broader vocabulary and the storylines are different than a simple picture book. Plus, the ones we were able to find were fairly large in length. It was essentially the same length as the early reader chapter books. We took him to a comic book store, showed him the section he could pick from (because they do have some created specifically for kids) and let him lead. He was apprehensive at first but when he saw that there were comics about Star Wars and his favorite superheroes, he was hooked. He tried to get four comics that first trip but we said one. We didn’t want him frustrating himself but promised when he finished that first one we would come back. Now to sit back and see what happens.
I felt like I was holding my breath
That first night, fifteen minutes after tucking kids in bed, I walked by his room to see him hiding a light, trying to read his comic. I swear I about cried. I told him five more minutes but then it was lights out. He did struggle. There were many times he told me his eyes or head hurt. I would suggest a small break and he would say, “let me finish this page please.” (This was actually good for him because it meant that he was working the eye muscles that were weaker than they should be but help us see.) He finished that first comic book in a week. The first month he read a comic book a week and he started re-reading the ones he had when he started getting through them faster.
That whole summer he read only comics
When fall came around, I decided to try a simple chapter book with him again. I picked the I Survived The Titanic Sinking because this boy is in LOVE with the Titanic. I also asked him to at least try and read 2 or 3 pages at a time. He read a chapter the first day and I danced around in celebration like a crazy Mama. I made a point to keep all the books that I suggested to him within the topics that he was interested in. Star Wars, Legos, Titanic, all the I Survived books. He read them all. He was officially reading chapter books.
Skip forward 2 years and he needed to transition again
My older boy who once struggled to read a single word is flying through two or three simple chapter books a day. He is beyond ready to move on but once again, he is resisting. Books that I thought would interest him do not at all. I tried the first Percy Jackson book since he likes mythology but he didn’t even get through the first chapter. I tried books with more information on the Titanic but he wouldn’t read them, he said he learned everything from the multiple documentaries he has recordings of. I tried books on black holes, on bridges and building structures, even books on ancient Egypt. Nothing was working.
So, I called in reinforcements.
My older boy has a twin sister. This is not always the case but most of the time, little ladies pick up reading faster than young men. My daughter transitioned from the different stages of books so smoothly and quickly that I am not even sure how it happened. She would get to the point where she would finish books in one sitting, what seemed like a blink of an eye, and ask for more. We bought her a book once from Barnes and Noble, it was a $15 book even, and she had it read by the time we were back home. I handed her a more challenging book when she asked to go back to the book store for another book. She has a high reading level capability but right now her vocabulary needs expansion so she can better understand what she is reading. Basically, I introduced her to Dragons of Pern but we put it back down because there were too many words she didn’t know yet. But she could read it out loud.
With her help, we started introducing many different books to her brother. She would read books like Warrior Cats, Little House on the Prarie and A Series of Unfortunate Events out loud to expose my older boy, and my younger too, to the various stories that were out there. It was when she started reading Fable Heaven that I saw my older boy start to really light up. He was extremely interested in the book and would complain when she didn’t read it more. It was during one of his complaints that I set the hook.
Why don’t you read it yourself if you want to know what happens?
He grumbled for a while, tried to put it off, and wait his sister out but I decided to ask her to stop reading to the boys for a while. Sure enough, a week after I had said that, I found him lying on the floor reading the book on his own. He would again say his eyes or head hurt but would push through and would rave about how wonderful the book was. He read all three Fable Heaven books, the whole Series of Unfortunate Events, and even the Percy Jackson books. His favorite book he recently read was Scythe.
He is officially in more challenging chapter books.
While with my older boy, the steps to progressing our kiddos up in what they read is drawn out and complicated, they are the same steps I am using with my younger boy and that you can use with your kiddos.
Let them Lead
It is important for our kids to appreciate all types of books but when we are transitioning them, challenging them, it is important to allow them some say so. When a kid can pick out a book to try on their own, they are more willing to sit down and work on that book than if you had handed them the book.
Use their Passions
For my older boy, he loved the Titanic, anything Star Wars and legos. With my younger boy, he loves legos, boy joke based books (what I call them), and anything robotics. My daughter loves animals, fantasy creatures and mythical lands, which is why I tried Dragons of Pern. Use your child’s passions to motivate them.
Take it Slow
Not only should you allow your kids time to get comfortable with a new level of reading but you need to allow them time to become confident. Give them “extra” time when you first start thinking they are ready to bump up the difficulty. We need them confident in themselves.
Find a Hook or Motivation
Having my daughter read out loud stories until I saw my older boy interested was the perfect hook. That is also how all things with twins tend to happen though. Not every one has twins but all kids have friends, you can have your kid’s friends try and hook them. Peer pressure can be a good thing too and sometimes can get your kiddos reading things you have suggested before but they fought you on so badly you let it go.
I saw this with my younger boy. He was refusing to transition up to big boy chapter books. It was made more difficult for me because he tends to repeat many things said in books and there are a number of boy joke books I find inappropriate, in my opinion, they go overboard on the boy books and bashing on siblings. One of my younger boy’s friends suggested the Last Kids on Earth books. This is a rather new series and the first time my boy has been so enthused by a book series. The second he knows a new book is coming out, he counts it down. The day it comes out he tells me multiple times. He also reminds me about every day after till we can find a minute to go get it.
Reading can be a challenge, but it doesn’t have to be a fight.
My youngest is 10 now and he has outgrown the Last Kids on Earth series he so loves. I need to transition him up and I know he will drag his feet. I also know how to best to motivate him though. For the longest time, he was not one to take the lead either. Being the youngest meant I needed to approach new books differently with him as he only wanted to do what his bubby and sissy were doing. All of our kids are unique. All of our kids go through stages and changes when they do better when we handle them one way and then decide they do better when we handle them in the opposite way. It can be downright maddening sometimes. But it is always a joy to watch them grow, learn, and change into young men and women.
Enjoy the journey.
Greetings! My name is Joy and I am currently a stay at home mom who is homeschooling her three kids in South Carolina. I love learning and I love sharing the love of learning with others so getting to home school my kids and watch the “ah-ha” moments when they understand something is unbelievably rewarding. I have been homeschooling since my twins were preschool age so we are going on 9 years now. I am also a military spouse, so we have the added joy of being a military family with some of the complications that come with it. As a family, we stay busy with our scouting groups, American Heritage Girls and TrailLife, and we do many camping and hiking trips with them. When I have downtime, I am typically reading books I have sitting around the house, on YouTube/websites getting more information on different home school programs, or working on plans for homeschool. I look forward to being able to share our experiences with everyone and help encourage all homeschooling families.