Getting a 5 Year Old To Want To Learn to Read

Steven Paglierani

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Recently, a young mother wrote and told me, she has a 5 year old son who loves to be read to but has no interest in learning to read. She then asked, “how do I go about teaching him the “Emergence" visual way?"

My answer? Know the key is your child's curiosity. The mystery can literally drive them to learn. Thus, if you can get your son to be curious about reading, you can get him to want to learn to read.

Here are some specific things you might try.

Imitation Reading: First, if he loves to be read to, he might be inspired to learn to read to you. Even if he merely imitates what you do at first, try it. Ask him if he will try to read to you. Even one line.

Now do your best not to correct him, no matter how off he is. For instance, if he says “dog" and it's a cat, get excited and reinforce his love of learning. As for the true words, introduce them later, when you read to him. Use your index finger. Then say the real word.

The point is, his “curiosity" is the seed in the kindergarten cup. Water it with love and kindness as often as you can.

Whose Name Is It?: Second, you might try putting a pad and a mirror next to each other, then write his name on the pad. Now ask him to look in the mirror and ask him what he thinks the word spells. Awakening his curiosity is the focus, remember? Finally, while having him look in the mirror, with surprise, tell him it is him.

Do the same with you and your name, then try to get him to know which face the name, “names. "

Treat For a Name: Set up a small amount of his favorite fruit, a cookie, or fork full of dessert inside a clear plastic, labeled-with-the-treat-name container. Or behind pads with the names written on them. Now tell him, if he reads the name, he will get the dessert.

Know you'll need to be pretty patient here, as five year olds can get pretty overwhelmed with neediness and then lose their sense of curiosity. To this end, it might be good to do this only when he has not asked for a treat. And when he's pretty satisfied already.

Be sure to vary the “treats" over time. For instance, you might use 3 by 5 cards on which you draw favorite activities. Including being read to. Now set up three hiding places (bright colored pads stood up, colorful closed paper boxes) and hide this card in one of them (behind one of the pads, inside one of the boxes). Now allow him to keep guessing until he finds the card. At which point, he needs to read the word in order to get the treat.

And if he doesn't read the word?

Give in after a few tries, then end the game. Why? Because the whole focus here is on his curiosity, not on his being able to parrot. Laughter and smiles are a plus.

Guess the Letter: With him at your side and with bright colored markers, draw the first five letters of the alphabet on three by five cards. Each letter should be drawn with a different color. Then turn them upside down, shuffle, and have him guess which card is the first one in the pile. Cards to be called by their letter names.

Remember, mystery is the key, and his curiosity, the drive.

Do let me know if any of this works and in the mean time, I'll try to think of some more things you might try.

Best wishes,

Steven Paglierani is a writer, teacher, personality theorist, and therapist whose work on human consciousness is read weekly by thousands all over the world. He is the author of Emergence Personality Theory, and his mission is to make the world better for children by restoring and deepening their love of learning.

He can be read or reached at his site,


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