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Fourth-Grader's Trouble with Reading

Education Expert Advice from Peggy Gisler, Ed.S. and Marge Eberts, Ed.S.

Q: I have a son, 10 years old, in the fourth grade. He's an A/B student. He doesn't like to read directions or books. I find that he just looks over things, instead of reading thoroughly. A lot of things he misses on tests are things he does not read over very well. Do you have any suggestions on how we could solve this problem? I'm afraid it will only get worse, if we don't try and do something. He makes good grades, but I can tell he does not like to read at all.

A: Some children your son's age don't read a lot because they find reading difficult, get busy with other activities, don't think reading beyond schoolwork is important, or simply don't enjoy reading. No matter why your son is not reading much, the unfortunate result will be a decline in his reading skills.

Without spending a great deal of time, you should be able to turn things around for your son. Begin by playing detective. You can find out a lot about his reading skills by having him read to you from one of his textbooks. If his skills seem weak, talk to his teacher about how they can be improved. Since he is doing well in school, we would guess that his reading skills are at least on grade level.

If your son is watching considerable television, it is probably cutting into time that could be used for reading. We suggest that families set aside 20 minutes each day for free reading. Everyone sits down and reads during this time, which is protected from phone calls, visitors, and other distractions. If your son is reluctant to read, you might begin by having him use this time to put together a model that requires the reading of fairly complicated directions.

Your child needs to understand that reading is essential. He should see you reading a wide variety of materials, from magazine advertisements to office work.

The most important way to hook your son on reading more is to show him reading is fun. Have a great variety of reading materials lying around the house, even in the bathroom. Make it easy for him to pick up something to read -- from a comic book to a children's version of such adult magazines as Sports Illustrated and National Geographic.

Don't just expect your child to read. Read to him every day. Try humorous materials, silly stories, and popular book series. This will truly show him that reading can be fun.

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Peggy Gisler and Marge Eberts are experienced teachers who have more than 60 educational publications to their credit. They began writing books together in 1979. Careers for Bookworms was a Book-of-the-Month Club paperback selection, and Pancakes, Crackers, and Pizza received recognition from the Children's Reading Roundtable. Gisler and Eberts taught in classrooms from kindergarten through graduate school. Both have been supervisors at the Butler University Reading Center.

Please note: This "Expert Advice" area of should be used for general information purposes only. Advice given here is not intended to provide a basis for action in particular circumstances without consideration by a competent professional. Before using this Expert Advice area, please review our General and Medical Disclaimers.


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