My son's homework for the year consisted of reading for 20 minutes every day after school. He was a second grader at the time, but was really more at a first grade reading level. High enough that he was able to attempt (with help) the more challenging easy readers, or even beginning chapter books, but low enough that he wasn’t able to stay focused and make it through longer books on his own. I knew he could complete this homework assignment, he had the ability, BUT, he made it clear that this was hard and, mostly, he didn’t want to do it.
And so began our daily after-school struggle/tradition; after a snack he would grab a book and join me in the purple chair by the window where we would begin to read. Some days he would be ready to go, others (aka: most) he made it clear he did not want to. My goal was to do what I could to make it as painless as possible for the both of us.
In order to accomplish this I kept a few general guidelines in mind. Overall they helped us both enjoy reading together more. Below are three ways I survived reading homework with my reluctant reader:
1. Let him pick the books. I would go to the library and get a stack of books I thought would be at his reading level and interesting to read. When it was time for reading homework, I let him do the picking. Sometimes he picked from my library stack, sometimes we read a book he had brought home from the school library. Overall, letting him pick the book increased his motivation to read it and gave us one less thing to argue about.
2. Take turns. On the days when he really didn’t want to read or ran out of juice a paragraph or two in, we would take turns. He would read a page (or a paragraph) and then I would. Sometimes he would only read five out of the twenty minutes, and I would read the rest. On the days he was more motivated, he would read more.
3. Don't let him sound out words. My goal was to make this time as pleasant as possible, instead of frustrating. When he would come to a word he didn't know, I would read it for him and he would continue on. This alone made reading homework so much better for both of us.
Bottom line, I wanted my son to understand that reading can be fun, instead of a chore. I wanted reading homework to be an opportunity to discover good stories, instead of a time to sound out words correctly. By following these three simple guidelines we were able to not just survive reading homework, but to actually enjoy it every once in a while.
An added bonus was the progress my son made in his reading. He started the year behind, but was able to make up ground as the year progressed. And, he would put up less and less resistance to our reading time together. Reading homework became something we both looked forward to (most of the time).
Better still, when 3rd grade reading homework came around, he was ready, willing and motivated to read it on his own.
If you are struggling through reading homework this year, be encouraged. There is light at the end of the tunnel. Do what you can to lower the pressure on both of you. Sometimes you may need to focus on the actual act of reading, but I have a feeling, if you make that time more about sharing stories, you will not only survive reading homework, but might even enjoy the time together.