Get Kids to Read
Just the other day, I received an email from a babysitter asking for help on how to get kids to read. She said she had been hired as a summer nanny for an eight year old boy named Jacob. The parents gave her their list of rules on the first day and included this, “Jacob needs to read at least two chapters of his book each day.”
The babysitter didn’t think it was a big deal at first… until she tried to get Jacob to read. He didn’t want to read. It was summer time, fun time, school vacation. The last thing he wanted to do was read. Jacob looked at reading like it was schoolwork and he had no interest whatsoever in doing schoolwork over the summer!
This didn’t seem like a difficult task to deal with, thought the babysitter. So she simply told Jacob to read two chapters of his book. Of course, he quickly replied with, “No, I don’t want to!” The sitter wasn’t too surprised but figured she just had to be a little more forceful. Next, she did what she thought her parents would do because that’s where most people learn to deal with children. She proceeded to try to force Jacob to read the book by telling him that he had to read. Still, he refused.
The entire day ended up being a battle between Jacob and the babysitter, and neither side would budge. The sitter tried telling him he would have to sit in his room all day if he didn’t read. That didn’t work. She tried bribing him with a cookie; that didn’t work either. She tried everything she could think of but to no avail. Who would know how to get kids to read, she wondered. Finally, that night, she emailed the Babysitting Lady! 🙂
First, I assured her that on the following day Jacob would read without a fight. She wasn’t so sure. I asked her what Jacob liked most to do. She replied that he loved going to the playground. She then quickly added that she had already tried telling him that she would not take him to the playground unless he read. I explained to her that if that was the way she presented it to him, then it probably sounded like a threat. Nobody likes to be threatened.
It was okay to use the promise of going to the playground to try to get Jacob to read. But it needed to be presented in a different way. I explained to the babysitter that almost all kids love to help. They want to help cook, they want to help paint, they want to help with “grown up” jobs. Grown ups usually help kids feel better when they’re sick. So, I told the sitter to play with Jacob for a little while first in the morning. Then, tell him you really want to go to the playground but you have a terrible headache and need to lay down for a little while.
Next, I instructed her to lay on the sofa or floor for about ten minutes. This will seem like a long time to a child who is waiting to do something fun. When he starts getting impatient and asking when you can go to the playground or if you are feeling better yet, that’s when you ask for help! Tell Jacob that you still have a headache but usually if someone reads to you, it relaxes your brain so much that your headache goes away. Ask Jacob if he could please read to you for a little while until your headache is gone. TA-DA, reading happens! This isn’t the only way to get kids to read, but it is one of them.
Obviously, this won’t work everyday. Another thing kids like is silliness. So, I told the babysitter to tell Jacob she was going to entertain him while he reads. What she needed to do was to act out some of the situations that were happening in the story as he read or make sound effects in the background. For example, if the character in the story sees a bird, the babysitter should start tweeting and/or pretend to fly around the room. If the character in the book is driving in a car, the sitter could get up and pretend to drive around the room in an exaggerated fashion. Also, if the story is supposed to be scary, the sitter can block her eyes or ears and pretend to be terrified. The idea here is to make it fun!
If you need additional ideas on how to get kids to read, just ask in the comments section below. Describe what the situation is and I will offer a suggestion. Best of luck babysitting!
The Babysitting Lady