What to do with a Hong Kong child who prefers anything to reading

Read to your child, take a trip to the library or a museum, and ask fellow parents to recommend children's books. Above all, don't stress out - some children take longer than others to develop a love of books

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 21 July, 2015, 6:04am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 21 July, 2015, 6:04am

My daughter in Year Five received a below-average report for reading. She never reads out of choice, and prefers any activity other than reading. Also she says she doesn't want to do schoolwork in the summer break. How can I encourage her to read during the holidays?

The long summer holiday is a perfect time for children to read for pleasure. They are away from the pressure of homework, the routine of the school day and extracurricular activities. Some children will make the most of this opportunity but others, like your daughter, have not discovered the wonder of independent reading - yet.

The concept of "yet" is key. Every parent wants their child to be a reader, not only for the vital and varied skills it develops, but also for the pleasure it can bring.

However, some children discover the love of reading earlier than others. So try not to get stressed about this and certainly don't transmit your worries to your daughter. Sometimes an inspiring teacher can help children tap into a particular author or series of books they will enjoy. Book recommendations from friends can be a strong incentive.

Your daughter may actually be reading more than you think as part of her natural daily activities. Having a purpose for reading is important and this can lead to frequent and relevant reading practice being automatically built into the day. For example, she may already be reading emails from friends, following instructions for computer games or reading from websites on the internet.

It would appear that your daughter relates reading to schoolwork, which is not at all helpful, and it is important to try to change her mindset in this regard. There are things you can do to help. I highly recommend that you read to your daughter. This is such a special and rewarding time between parent and child, even when children get older, and it means you can enjoy sharing a great novel together, perhaps something she wouldn't attempt to read by herself. This would also give you a chance to discuss the book and ask open questions that will help her comprehension and higher order reading skills such as inference and deduction. Involving your extended family in this process can be helpful.

A family visit to the library can be a perfect outing in this hot weather. The Central Library in Causeway Bay has a great children's section and also a multi-media room. Visits to bookshops can also be useful.

Reading other types of texts can be slotted into a day. Trips to museums for example include a great deal of reading, reading restaurant menus and doing a local trip or family holiday could involve research on the internet beforehand. Read the newspaper with your daughter. Find a local or international story that interests her so she learns about current affairs and increases her general knowledge.

It is all about your daughter keying in to her passions and finding particular authors and genres she really enjoys. There are some fantastic children's authors around. Talk to other parents who have children around the same age. Recommendations of their children's favourite books could be useful. High-level picture books, specifically written for older children, can be a good alternative to chapter books and are ideal for reluctant readers. They will stretch your daughter's mind but are shorter, colourful and more accessible.

Try to be a good role model yourself - make sure your daughter sees you reading for pleasure. Reading is such a key skill across the curriculum and for life. Ironically, pupils who struggle with reading and need more practice, tend to be more reluctant to read as it can be hard work for them and therefore far from a relaxing pastime. Once your daughter discovers a page-turner that she can't put down hopefully she'll be hooked and she'll never look back.

Julie McGuire teaches at a local primary school