Dilemma: my grandson is not very good at reading

Jo Brand / 15 May 2017

A reader writes to agony aunt Jo Brand to find out how she can encourage her grandson to read more and improve his reading level.

Dilemma: how can I help improve my grandson's reading skills?

My grandson, who’s seven, is a bad reader. As far as I can tell, his parents don’t sit with him to practise reading as I used to with my children, or even read him bedtime stories. He’s just sent off with his phone or iPad. 

I find it really upsetting, but I live 30 miles away and am not on hand to give practical help. What can I do to spark his interest?

Jo Brand's advice

I understand why you’re upset. Reading is so important for us to acquire a decent vocabulary, stretch our minds, feed creativity and just step into a tantalising parallel world. Educationalists say it’s important to get kids to read anything… newspapers, comics, online blogs: whatever piques their interest.

For parents it can be a huge battle and many feel they just cannot commit the time they should to reading with their child. Many of us have busy lives and, what with many parents doing two jobs, I suppose the last thing people want to be doing when they arrive home exhausted from work – desperate to put their feet up and gaze like a zombie at the telly – is forcing a reluctant child to read.

You could suggest something unusual such as reading him a bedtime story on Skype a couple of nights a week. He might find it really good fun to have Grandma coming out of the iPad at him. Really, the best you can do is to make the offer. Perhaps you could write to him regularly and send him things you’ve cut out of magazines for him to comment on. Don’t forget, kids love receiving letters; it makes them feel special.

Try everything you can think of – even bribery may help! The watchwords here are MAKE IT FUN and hopefully it will attract him. But try not to pass a moral judgment on his parents. We all, with very few exceptions, want the best for our kids.

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