How to Introduce Reading Materials to a Non-Reader

Have you ever tried solving a riddle in a language you cannot comprehend? No matter how you go back and forth, you will not be able to arrive even at step one of the solution. This is how reading feels like to a non-reader.

I remember my teaching stint in pre-school years back. While some of my 4–5-year-old pupils would excitedly turn the pages of their books when I say, “Please turn your books to page 10,” one of them would do nothing with the book on his table and would wait for me or his seatmate to do it for him. The pupil would also not participate in our alphabet singing and letter-writing activities. While there are other factors that I may not know of regarding this kid, his performance in our classes clearly shows that he is a non-reader.

For the context of this article, a non-reader is “one who does not or cannot read or a child who is slow in learning to read.”

How do we properly introduce materials to a non-reader? Ms. Marifi Navarro, a librarian for more than 25 years, shares her experiences and some tips on how to help non-reader children take a step towards reading and actually loving it!

How do we properly introduce reading materials to non-readers in these age groups?

For ages 4-8
(kids in the Primary level or Grades 1-2)

Nonreaders this age usually visit the library with the influence of their friends or classmates. However, instead of reading, they just “roam around and don’t want to touch any book from the shelves. They are observing what is happening in the library.”

For ages 4-8, Ms. Marifi suggests:

Do not overwhelm the kids.
“We put a small basket of selected storybooks or alphabet books in every classroom so that learners can get books anytime they want to read. We also change the books every month.”

Begin with picture books.
“With my kids, I first introduced them to some picture books of animals, colors, and shapes. When they started to talk, that’s the time I gave them a one-liner storybooks like My First Bible storybook. It is more on pictures, and the letters are printed big.”

Hand them books and train them to read.
“Whenever I talk to my coworkers with kids in school, I urge them to give books to their kids while they are still young, introduce them to books, give them books, and train them to read even though they cannot read and understand the story well yet. It is okay as long as they see and hold the books because later on, they will find books interesting and it will develop a love for reading.”

For ages 9-12

For this age group, Ms. Marifi notes that “non-readers are seldom; learners are classified more as slow readers, or the ones struggling in reading.”

For ages 9-12, Ms. Marifi suggests:

Encourage them to visit the library.
“In school, we have a Star Library User Program to encourage learners to borrow books from the library. We give simple tokens and a certificate of appreciation to the top borrower. At home, parents can do this through rewarding their kids for visiting the library often, borrowing books from it, and actually reading the books at home.”

Introduce Online Resources.
“During library class instruction we give orientation on how to use the library site where links on online resources like e-books that are available for additional reading materials which they can browse and read.”

Offer different types of books.
“Offer different books. Allow them to also choose their own books to read. Organize them by types of material, such as picture books and graphic novel books. Then, arrange these books according to the kids’ degree of readiness.”

Set up a space for creativity.
“In our library, there is a Makerspace where learners can do some arts and crafts. They can color, draw and cut some papers. Parents can also set up the same at home where their kids can color characters based on a book or story. This can encourage them to know more characters through reading.”

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