It’s taken until the final term of year 4. Five school years of reading. I was despairing. But finally we have found a book that N wants to read, is enjoying, and hasn’t complained when he’s needed to do his reading. He’s discovered reading for pleasure. And it’s a sport biography.
Now I’m not getting too excited about it lasting, but it’s a start.
If you’re not aware of N’s reading journey, it’s been painful. In reception and year 1, he just wasn’t bothered. Reading wasn’t important, and he got away with doing the minimum. Just about. His teachers were telling he was reading ok, but not where they thought he was capable of. As a bookworm myself, it’s hard to conceive that someone doesn’t enjoy reading.
Year 2 and N’s teacher made sure he had booster reading sessions. He was reading more regularly to an adult in school, and his ability to read clicked. He realised he could read fine. That school year he did read each day because the teacher checked on him and it was the focus for the year.
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Year 3 was a bit of a slack one. It was painful getting N to read. I tried everything to encourage him to read, we tried every book theme possible.
He was a free reader, but the choice of books probably made it harder than if he was still on a reading scheme where you automatically just read the next book.
There were a lot of book themes that N isn’t fussed about – he doesn’t like superheroes, fantasy, magic, football, books with too much girly stuff in, anything farfetched. The books he enjoyed, like David Walliams, Wimpy Kid and the Storey Treehouse books, he was either running out of books to read, or was getting bored as the stories were basically all the same. I was getting stuck for options.
We tried a children’s newspaper, Guinness Book of World Records, recipe books. He’ll read tem when he wants to just flick through, or if he has to read them for school. But he would never take himself off to read for pleasure. Never choosing to sit down and read a book over something else.
N’s reading level is fine. He’s a little above his age. But his comprehension leaves a lot to be desired because unless he can find the answers spelt out in the text, he’ll struggle to think about what the words could insinuate. What’s not actually said in the text, and what they need to think and work out for themselves. It’s my belief that you don’t need to learn this if you read enough. You’ll get used to thinking for yourself, and understanding better the more you read. So I’ve always been keen for N to love books as much as I do.
Over the years I’ve had a lot of book recommendations from people with children who love to read. We’ve read some as bedtime stories, and a few were a little old for him at the time. We’ve found a couple of books by chance which he quite enjoyed and we need to find others in the series to try.
Talking to N he said he’d quite like to read about animals and farms. Unfortunately, there’s not many suitable books around. Dick King Smith is too unreal for him. Megan Rix he wasn’t that taken with. Kim Lewis is too old fashioned and slow. We were recommended the Animal Ark series about a girl vet – they sounded a little young for him, plus he relates better to boy characters as they’re more like him. So most of those were a fail. I’m debating introducing him to James Herriot books as he might like reading about vets on farms.
I trawled online book sellers for some suitable books to try. A Percy Jackson* (a bit of facts, half fantasy, he didn’t sound excited by this), a chemistry themed adventure book Itch by Simon Mayo* (sounds cool to me, N wasn’t thrilled), Willard Price Diving Adventure* (my brother used to love these), and a couple of more fun normal kids on adventure books, including the Super Miraculous Journey of Freddie Yates* by Jenny Pearson which we’re loving at bedtime at the moment. It’s really funny and nicely written with some poignancy too. Maybe he’ll read more of these himself in future.
The sports biography he’s loving
But the discovery has been a sports biography, tennis specifically. I found an Andy Murray Tennis Ace* biography which was a suitable read for children. It didn’t take long for N to start reading it.
Ok, so he’s still only reading during the week because he knows he needs to be reading on those days. But rather than just reading for the 10 minutes he has to do for school, he’s spent 20 minutes the first day, 35 minutes the next, and nearly 50 minutes the third. He’s never read for more than 15 minutes before. And I think if he’d not had more school work to do, he’d have continued reading.
One day I didn’t even have to suggest he do his reading. When I came downstairs in the morning, he was already snuggled in a chair reading away.
As N will rarely read to me anymore, I do worry how much he understands of what he’s reading. But with this book, he’ll sometimes tell me about facts he’s reading about, and afterwards sum up the latest of where he’s got to. He’s actually said he’s enjoying reading it, and there’s plenty he can learnt about. From tennis, growing up in sport, and we’ve even had a discussion about the Dunblane shooting as the Murray brothers were at Dunblane school when it happened.
I’m so pleased we’ve found at least one book N likes and enjoys. My next step is to get hold of some other tennis biographies. His teacher plays tennis and recommended Tim Henman’s, Nadal’s and Federer’s as age appropriate. I’m hoping that if he enjoys reading about sports people, maybe he might move onto other sports as well.
I’m not generally a big fan of biographies or autobiographies. I’ve read some dancers’ books, and a couple of (definitely not child suitable) tennis autobiographies, but I’m going to have to get reading fast so I can check before he gets hold of them.
Maybe N just prefers stories about real people rather than fiction.
Fingers crossed this is a successful ongoing step in his reading journey. I doubt he’s ever going to be so excited about what comes next in a book, that he’ll never be able to put it down. But being willing to read for a substantial amount of time means he’s getting more into a book and will understand more of it. Rather than swapping in and out with only short stints of reading.
So if you’ve got a child who’s capable of reading but maybe isn’t keen on children’s books, but likes sports, maybe it’s worth trying them on sports star books (just check they’re age appropriate).
Do you have a sport biography or tennis book you could recommend?