Ideas for overcoming five common excuses kids give for not reading

April 01, 2012|Lisa Prejean

If you had more time for leisure, how would you use that time?

Would you spend time with friends? Go to the gym? Watch a movie? Listen to the latest CD? Take a nap?

While that last one is pretty enticing, it would not be at the top of my list. If I had more leisure time, I would read.

Just the thought of spending an entire afternoon or evening curled up with a book brings a smile to my face.

Hey, I can dream, can’t I?

Unfortunately, many people think my top pick is rather odd. That thought occurred to me this week as I scanned through email and something caught my eye. It was a report from WeAreTeachers, an online source of lessons plan ideas, discussion groups and grant providers for teachers.

The report, “Five Excuses Kids Give For Not Reading,” presented some of the most common excuses and ways to respond. Some of these ideas are from the website, and some are ideas I have used to help struggling readers.

1. The excuse: “My book is boring.”

How is this attitude overcome? Students need to select their own reading material whenever possible. They should be encouraged to choose books that focus on their hobbies, likes and dislikes and lives outside of school. If they are reading about their interests, the books won’t be boring.

2. The excuse: “I read slowly.”

Students who struggle with reading might benefit from some auditory help. Hearing a parent or an older sibling read out loud can help a struggling reader get a feel for a passage. Listening to audio books can be a benefit as well because the student can hear how the reader uses expression and emphasis.

3. The excuse: “That book is way too long.”

Students intimidated by longer texts might enjoy shorter nonfiction books. If they want to know more about a hobby, this is a great way to discover interesting facts. Plus, the “desire to know” might motivate the student to read so he can learn.

4. The excuse: “I don’t want to read out loud.”

There are students (and adults) who could go a lifetime without ever reading out loud ... if only they could get by with that. Struggling readers might benefit from recording themselves reading privately. The recording will help them self-evaluate, which is an effective confidence-builder.

5. The excuse: “I don’t understand Shakespeare.”

In my classes, I like to divide Shakespeare into small sections of reading, whenever possible. We read a short passage, discuss that passage and read a little further. My students invariably express their frustration: “We understand it when it is explained to us, but not if we just read it.” I tell them that understanding comes with time. Even the most advanced readers come across passages that they do not understand. Here’s a challenge to students from the website: Brainstorm modern equivalents for archaic words and phrases we no longer use.

So, in today’s terminology, would Shakespeare’s famous metaphor translate, “All the world’s a video screen?”

That brainstorming session certainly would be an interesting exercise.

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Lisa Tedrick Prejean writes a weekly column for The Herald-Mail’s Family page. Send email to her at

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