Reading is boring!

No, of course it isn’t! But what a problem; getting children to read books when tablets – with their fast moving and vibrant colours – beckon more invitingly. What is it about screens? I wish I understood, but not having been born and brought up in this technological age, I simply don’t get it. I will probably never fully understand the allure of that computer or tablet screen, but I do understand the dangers, and the effect on ordinary reading habits.

So the question is – how can we encourage children to read and enjoy books more, by which I mean those with paper pages? The title of this blog is what my granddaughter (just starting Year 4) said to me one day when I was listening to her read her school book. I could hardly believe it: ‘Reading is boring!’ she exclaimed. For a moment I didn’t know how to respond. After all, I am someone who reads every evening and pursues books like hot dinners. This child is a good reader. And reading is certainly not boring! But how could I convince her? I persuaded her to carry on reading and explained how important reading was to getting a good job and earning the money to have a good life.

Was the reading book the problem? This was a story from the ‘Reading 360’ series, which has been around a long time, a staple amongst school reading schemes – but somewhat dated now. The story was set during the Second World War, in Germany. As I listened, a few things occurred to me. This was a serious story – with no humour: unusual, as many children’s books today set out to be as funny as possible to capture attention. The language too contained many obscure, multi-syllabic words that my granddaughter did not understand the meaning of, though she could read most of them.

I began to realise this was partly the problem – not knowing what some of those big words meant: hence not being able to fully understand the story. Although being able to decode words is the essential backbone of the reading process – without comprehension, such decoding skills are meaningless. No wonder she found it boring. So I showed her a technique – how to guess at the meanings of words she didn’t know. Take the sentence, ‘…the soldiers swarmed into the room.’ The confusing word was ‘swarmed’. So I asked her to imagine an empty space: the soldiers …… into the room. ‘Rushed’ my granddaughter said. Great! That would do, I thought, as she is too young yet to read further between the lines and therefore relate the ‘swarming’ to ‘bees’, and to realise why the author had used that particular word.

The technique of filling in empty spaces in sentences used to be part of the process of developing comprehension. It’s called ‘cloze’ procedure. When I was teaching we used exercises to develop this crucial, guessing skill. Consider these sentences: Mum went to the s…………… She b………. some sausages, potatoes and peas. It’s obvious what these missing words are when we think about the context.

It’s not always so simple. One of the unknown words in this war story was ‘unceremoniously’ – which, my granddaughter, as part of our ‘cloze’ practice, managed to guess as ‘not making a fuss’: close enough for our purpose.

So the moral of my tale: reading must never be boring for our children, otherwise they will not choose to engage in it. I tried to explain to my granddaughter that the more she practised the more she would come to understand all the hard words. But schools must also ensure that the books children bring home are as engaging as possible.

Parents and schools have a battle on their hands – to develop children as reading adults. It’s not easy. Competition is fierce. But at least let’s make sure that the books they bring home to read are as engaging as possible, and at the right comprehension level.

Help is available! My books, written especially for parents, are designed to offer support and guidance as their child moves through the National Curriculum. Book 1 focuses on children with Special Educational Needs and Disabilities (SEND), while Books 2 to 5 guide parents through the key stages. Find them on Lulu and Amazon.

Good luck.

« Back to Blog