My six-year-old son is not “into” books or reading. He hates reading and every night it’s a battle to get him to read a book, even if it’s about his favourite hobbies. It’s torture for him, and me, and I end up pulling my hair out most nights
And because he hates to read, my son is falling behind his Grade One classmates at school, when it comes to reading. As a mother, and also as a writer, you can imagine my dismay at having a kid who hates to read.
BUT…I found an unconventional and modern way of getting my son not only to read, but to look forward to reading, without any whining, tears, or complaints. In fact, he now loves to read! And it’s because his father and I have taught our six-year-old son how to text.
Yes, you read that correctly.
Let me be clear: This is not about how much screen time you should allow your child – I’ll leave that to your parenting rules in your homes – but I am now teaching my six-year-old to read by texting his Dad and me, and it’s been a game changer.
Let me explain why and how texting has turned my son who detested reading only a few weeks ago into a child who now can’t wait to read.
My son has his own iPad which goes with him to his father’s house on his days, and the iPad comes to my house when it’s my days with my son. My ex set my son up with texting on his iPad and taught him where to find his contacts who include Daddy, Mommy, Rowan (his sister), his two other sisters, and also our nanny. He also taught our son where and how he could text on his iPad. Now that my son knows about texting, and now also LOVES to text, he wants to do it all the time, especially before bedtime.
And this is how I’m teaching him to not just read, but to look forward to reading. He gets so excited about texting, I don’t even have to yell that it’s time for bed. That’s a damn miracle. (Sorry to any doctors or teachers who think screen time before bed is bad, bad, bad! I don’t care. My son needs to learn to read, and, admittedly, I’m a mother that doesn’t really care all that much about screen time.)
“Mommy, can we go upstairs so can we text?” my son will ask me, an hour before his bedtime. Of course I say yes, not just because he doesn’t complain about bedtime now, but because reading with him, sounding out words and pointing out letters all through text and on his iPad keyboard makes it unbelievably fun to read with him.
Every night that my son is with me, we lie in my bed together before bedtime, me with my Iphone, my son with his iPad. As we lay next to each other, we text each other. Sounds crazy to go back-and-forth texting with a six-year-old? I don’t know. I do know that it’s working. Every night, we spend about 30 minutes, texting each other like this.
Why has teaching my six-year-old son to text, and to like to read texts, work? Because I make him read the texts I send him (as he lies next to me) out loud. So, for example, on Friday night, as we lay in bed, I texted, “Do you want to go to an arts and craft place tomorrow to paint and make clay figures? It sounds like fun! Or we could go skating? What would you like to do?” I watched as his mouth moved, trying to sound out every word of my text. I also added a skate emoji before I hit send, and watched my son’s face light up, giggling at the added emoji.
“Read what I wrote out loud,” I told him. And he did, with a huge smile on his face. He needed help with some of the words, but after he read what I wrote him out loud, he then proceeded to text me back, just as excitedly as he was when he received my first text to him.
I’ll admit, the part where I have to wait for my six-year-old’s text response can take a while as he looks for the location of the letters on his iPad. Just a few weeks ago, his responses were usually just ‘yes’ or ‘no,’ or, ‘ok,’ because he was just learning to find the letters on his iPad. But he was reading! Even better, he was enjoying reading. No, enjoying isn’t the right word. He was ecstatic to read the texts I sent him because along with the words and sentences I text him, I find hilarious GIFS or emojis to add, which he literally laughs out loud at. For example, in one text exchange, I wrote, “It was so slippery outside today. Did you slip and fall?” adding a GIF of a man hilariously slipping on some ice.
As my questions, or the words that make up my questions I text to him become a little bit harder each time we text, he’s learning how to type AND his spelling has also improved because he actually asks me for help when he can’t pronounce a word in a text I send him. By teaching my six-year-old to read via texting each other, he is also learning to type, sort of a must-have skill today and for his future.
Last night, as we lay in bed next to each other with our electronic devices to start texting each other, one of my questions was, “What is your third favourite colour?”
“Read what I wrote out loud,” I told him and he did. It took him maybe 7 minutes to write out his response, but not only did he read the question completely correctly on his own, he texted the word, “pink.’ Baby steps. Baby steps.
My son recently mentioned a new Lego Movie is coming out. So, in another one of our nightly text exchanges, I texted my son, “Want to see the Lego movie together and eat popcorn?” adding the popcorn box emoji. In the same text exchange, I asked, “Would you like to have a dance party tomorrow with your sister? We can make funny dances together,” adding a GIF of a woman, raising her arms and dancing like, well, like nobody was watching. It was hilarious. My giggly son texted me back, “I want to dance,” which took about 10 minutes, with a tiny bit of help from me.
Within two weeks, he went from one-word answers to answering in full sentences. He’s now not only trying, but he also loves learning to read, because it doesn’t feel like it’s a punishment anymore.
I know many parents or teachers, or so-called-experts, are probably thinking that this is a terrible idea, teaching my child to read by texting since learning to read actual books is a must. To that, I’ll argue that in order for my son, at least, to want to read, he has to enjoy it first. By teaching him how to text, and reading texts out loud, he now is eager to read.
Of course, I think books are extremely important (I’m an author!) but when you have a child like mine who thinks reading books is a punishment, doing anything to encourage a love of reading is a win.
Whether you agree with it or not, I’ve finally found a way for him to enjoy reading. And, since he loves texting so much, my next step is to tell him that we have to read one book before we can text each other in bed together.
If you have a child who hates to read, what do you do?
Tagged under: reading,iPad,love of reading,text,how to encourage reading,kids and screen time,kids and reading,importance of reading,spelling,reading books,text messaging,sharing your love of reading,how much is too much screen time,early learning,reading to kids,reading level,writing for kids