Reading Help for ADHD Kids
Sitting still and being calm enough to read a good book for a while might seem contrary to what ADHD is all about. However, fluent reading is an amazing gift for the ADHD child. Reading takes a child away to adventure, fun, excitement and wonder. The imagination is encouraged to go wild on an adventure of the mind. What could be better?
If your ADHD child is having difficulty in reading, there are a number of easy ways to help.
First, change your child's mindset by talking positively about reading.
A lot of beliefs our children hold about their reading capability and reading in general is simply a playback of what they keep telling themselves about reading. If your child constantly says "but I HATE to read", ask him to change it to "I have not learned to love to read yet." This might seem funny but it does shift his thinking into a positive statement. This affirms to his brain that one day, he will actually love to read. This tiny shift creates a huge catalyst for change. If he refuses to say it, just playfully say it to him every time he tells you he hates reading. This sets his mind up for success in reading, especially if he has already decided that he 'hates reading'. If your child is just starting to read and has not yet had the opportunity to really enjoy reading because it's still work, set him up for success by saying things like "you're going to find that reading is amazing and fun. You're just going to love it. You can go on adventures and escape to faraway places and do magical things. The more you read, the easier it gets and as it gets easier, you'll love it more". You have to talk it up and make it as exciting as it really is. Can you tell I love to read? And this is coming from a girl whose third grade teacher said she'd never read well. Ahem...
Now that you have mentally set your child up for success, you have to set in motion the physical components for reading success. This means allowing thirty minutes of reading time a day at least, depending on the age. Eight and nine year olds can easily read beginner chapter books for thirty minutes. Ten year olds can read forty-five minutes or more, depending on their level and interest. For children younger than eight, shorter stories should be given. If your child struggles with reading, they should not be left on their own to read by themselves. Mom or Dad should be right there listening and encouraging. I encouraged my struggling readers (all children have moments of struggle) by alternating reading paragraphs with him. This becomes fun for the child and makes learning to read seem less like a chore. Reading becomes a special time for hugs and cuddles along with improving reading skills. Stay relaxed around reading. Don't force too much if they feel stuck. Help your child sound out the words. Staying patient, optimistic and relaxed is what is going to create the positive energy around reading that your child needs.
As your child gets older, read your own book while he is reading. We cannot expect our children to do and love what we do not. Set an example for your child. You will enjoy the great escape into books as well. Dedicated mommies and daddies deserve quiet, relaxing time too.
A common mistake parents and teachers make with a struggling reader is to choose books for the child. If you allow your beginning reader to choose his own books and topics, you will have a much more enthusiastic learner. If your child loves sports, but you choose books about famous people in history, your child will not be as excited to read as he could be. It is fine to require reading certain things, but it's much better to wait until your child has more experience and is more comfortable reading. In the beginning, simple take him to the library and let him loose to find all the things that interest him. If he does not want to choose, choose for him, but always stick with his interests. Giving your child reading choices that he is interested in will allow him to learn more about his favorite subject and reaffirm what you are telling him: that reading is interesting and can be so much fun!
Another cool trick in the ADHD parenting toolkit is to check out books on CD at the library, along with the actual book and ask your child to read along with the speaker. This allows your child to live the adventure while becoming more confident in word spelling and his ability to recognize the words. I do not recommend this alone, but as a supplement to his regular reading practice with you.
Remember that an ADHD child's brain works fast. He thinks fast and he can get discouraged easily when he cannot read as fast as his mind wants to go. His mind wants to hear and engage in the story NOW. Struggling with reading can be frustrating because his ability is not to the point that allows reading to flow yet. Your best weapon against discouragement is to stay positive and patient, reminding him continually that his ability will indeed catch up with his brilliant, fast mind and reading will get easier for him as you continue to practice together. This will keep his self esteem high as he realizes that he really does think fast and that he really will read like the speed of light.
Finally, don't be surprised if your ADHD child learns to read jumping up and down on a trampoline. My son learned this way, although I'm not quite sure how he did it. Today he is eleven years old and will read for six hours straight if he has the time. People are amazed that this very active, very social child quietly sits and devours books like he does. Imagine all the things that you could get done in six hours.
Often this son reads to his little brother as well. I can hear him living the amazing adventures as his voice empowers his characters to come to life. His enthusiasm is contagious. ADHD kids do things big and powerful. They never leave anyone wanting for excitement. They always deliver, even when reading a book to younger siblings. So allow your child to move around, shift side to side or even sing the words to you if he needs to. No one has ever proven that kids need to be still in order to learn to read well.
ADHD kids can learn to be excellent readers, even surpassing their peers in terms of motivation and excitement for reading. Reading helps them focus their attention and concentration and builds those skills. Make reading fun and enjoyable by using the tools we have discussed here. Reading is the ultimate active adventure for the mind, and ADHD children do wonderful with active adventure. Share the power of reading with your child today.