By Allison Gardenswartz, Consulting Educator
I have been struggling with my 10-year-old son and his reading for years now. I have tried different books, looking for what he likes to read, I've read with him, tried to be enthusiastic, but nothing seems to work.
Now I am trying to give him a monetary incentive to read a chapter book. I've tried the video game/TV incentives, but that still is not enough.
His reading scores were very inconsistent, and every year I hear the same story from his teachers. He rushes through tests and doesn't read the questions carefully, so his test scores are naturally low.
Do you recommend a reading program? I think he will feel like I am punishing him in a way. I don't know what else to do and feel it is going to affect his self-confidence in other areas he was strong in. He started out very strong in math, but that went down at the end of the year, too. I am nervous for him entering fifth grade.
If your son has difficulty with reading comprehension, it will eventually affect all academic areas, as in math, for example, where there are word problems to process.
You first need to identify if he is capable of reading grade-level material and just doesn't like it, or is he struggling to understand the reading. You should be able to make this determination based upon standardized test scores and discussion with the teachers.
If he is a capable fourth-grade reader and needs motivation to read, then an incentive program is a great idea! You should set it up with short attainable goals and daily rewards, then larger goals and weekly rewards. You'll need a monitoring and measuring system, as well, whether it be a chart or stickers. If the issue is indeed motivation, finding the right type and style of reading material will definitely help. Try reading newspapers, magazines or short passages from books daily to find the things he likes to read about. Then introduce the chapter books on similar subjects. Reading lists by grade and subject are available on GreatSchools.org and are very helpful.
If he is having difficulty with comprehension, now is the time to rectify the problem as reading will get more difficult. Talk to the classroom teacher about tutoring or look into a private reading program. Most students enjoy these programs and do not view them as punishment. Good programs usually have reward systems built in, and most students thrive on the individual attention and instruction that they receive.