Posted by Nate Dunlevy

Not everyone loves to read as much as you do.lazy_slow-300x167

As we kick off Teen Read Week, it’s important for parents, teachers, and librarians to remember that not everyone enjoys reading. For many young people, reading is stressful. Whether it’s due to physical issues such as poor eyesight, inadequate vision correction, a lack of prior experience, or due to a lack of fundamental skill, reading can be a frustrating experience.

As you seek to identify signs of stress in the students in your life, keep in mind that stress manifests differently in different temperaments. Some students will respond to stress externally and act out in inappropriate ways. Other students will internalize their feelings and become sullen and withdrawn.

Learning to identify signs of stress in young people can go a long way toward identifying the source of their reading deficiency. By paying attention to the temperament-specific ways kids show stress, you can head off potential conflicts.

A parent recently shared the story of his seven-year-old daughter who lagged well behind her peers in reading. She would get whiny and disinterested when asked to read, and she never picked up a book for fun. As her mom and dad noted her stress levels rising around reading activities, they had her tested. It turns out she had a vision problem that led to difficulty focusing.

After two years of therapy, she is now a happy fourth-grader who reads five to seven books a week for fun. The struggle was intense, but the time and effort have paid off. Because her parents were attuned to the ways she displayed stress, they caught the problem in time and avoided years of frustration.

Remember to take the time to listen to the reluctant reader. If he or she is still resistant to reading, even after finding books that should ignite his or her interests, there may be something else at work. It won’t always look the same in every kid, but that stress may be masking physical limitations and learning disabilities that can be treated.

Kids who struggle to read can be dogged by insidious labels, like “lazy,” “poorly disciplined,” or “slow.” Such tags are destructive and provide all-too-comfortable ways to dismiss a young mind that can still be engaged and developed. If you get discouraged by a child’s lack of progress, you can be sure the child will be discouraged as well.

Too many teens don’t read because someone labeled them when they were younger. Watch for signs of stress, avoid easy-out labeling, and make sure you explore physical limitations or struggles when engaging young readers. Hopefully by the time they become teens, they will love reading just as much as you do!

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