Not all children instantly love books. A reluctant reader will often struggle down the line with literacy skills and it can affect their feelings about learning in general and their own self esteem. This can be frustrating for both you and your child. So what can you do?
I have collected advice from 20 of my favourite bookstagrammers and teachers here on Instagram! Tips that you can implement at home without spending any money.
How to Encourage A Reluctant Reader
- Let them choose books that match their interests, regardless of level or type.
- Relax! Focus on enjoyment and relationship building with your child.
- Make it a special time.
- Make books constantly available and reading spaces inviting
- Don’t give up, keep reading to your child.
- Let them see you reading
- Consider Audiobooks
- Find series books with loveable characters
- Think out loud about what you notice in the book.
- Don’t push through a book they don’t enjoy
- Use books that start conversations.
- Take turns reading aloud.
My tips to make reading inviting! Create spaces that a child would want to read in and have a selection of excellent books for them to choose from. Rotate the selection regularly. Focus on creating a special time every day where you can also read together and focus on keeping it fun.
My best tip for reluctant readers is to find a series of books that match their interests. When kids get to know the characters in a series, they feel connected, invested and want to know more about them. So find a few great series of books to keep them reading.
My advice for parents of reluctant readers would be to relax! I know it’s tough, but try to stop worrying so much about what your child is or is not able to do.
Find some books on a topic they’re interested in and read it to them.
Enjoy books together without testing them or making them perform for you. If you can make reading a positive experience, a time for connection, your child is more likely to be motivated to learn.
Another tip would be to “think out loud” – casually point something out as you read (a letter you notice, a sight word you know they’re practicing at school) or work out a tricky word aloud and then move on. But be careful! If you do this too often or too obviously, your child will likely catch on and get annoyed.
Tough to narrow it down because each reluctant reader is different. But probably my number one tip is to find a way to get into the fun of it with your child. Whether your thing is voices, or reading during bath time, or seeking out book events. If you as the caregiver can make it fun and set an example of reading being awesome then the kids will likely follow.
To help kids build stamina for longer texts parents can try an “I read, You read” strategy. Take turns reading a page (or paragraph) at a time. It’s a relief for reluctant readers because they don’t have to carry the full load by themselves and comprehension is better maintained because they can listen to understand when it’s the parent’s turn.
Pick books with engaging illustrations to have conversations about, in addition to reading the text. Ideally, a series or a book that would lend itself well to being a jumping off point for extra interest in a topic.
“Allow them to choose the books, and set aside the time to read one to one every day. Keep books in every part of the house… even the bathroom! That way a book is never more than an arms length away.”
I would say allow them to choose the book. Even if we are the one reading to them, giving reluctant readers a choice is helpful. So I would show the child three-four books with topics they are interested in and then have them choose.
Togetherness and specialness. Togetherness, making a set time each day and make it special, an afternoon tea after school, a special drink and a bite to eat while sharing a book to read. Whatever you do, make it special and be together
Find books that interest them with characters they want to read about. Foster a love of reading!
All reading is good reading!
Don’t worry about reading level, or size, or genre, or if it’s a book they’ve read before. Reading is reading.
If someone only wants to read dinosaur books or graphic novels- let them. Building book joy and love is the foundation for lifelong literacy.
Oh and audiobooks are reading too!
Give your kid both- the book and the listenable format and let them follow along.
Hearing fluency modeled is a great way to encourage them to read along on their own!
My number one tip is to let kids see their parents enjoying books.
Find something they are really interested in and tie it to books. My youngest didn’t enjoy reading until I found him some simple biographies about famous runners. Also, audiobooks are a great option for some kids!
Make reading fun! Use silly voices and actions.
I think family members modelling positive reading behaviours is the most important. Since children learn so much by seeing (not telling), if they see others gaining enjoyment of reading, they might be inspired to give it a try. We tell parents/guardians to pull out a book themselves, read aloud picture books/chapter books, make reference to how reading helps them read driving directions (kids will internalize, “I need to read to drive a car”) or when a parent is cooking they can say, “can you help me read this recipe”… without pressure, parents can model positive ways in which reading is intertwined into daily life
Another tip we share in my role is not to use timers to enforce 20mins of reading a night (even though we know it’s good practice)… timers make it seem like a chore and when the timer goes off, even if the child was enjoying the book, they will stop and move onto something else
With reluctant readers, we also tell parents not to worry about WHAT they are reading (comics, graphic novels, magazines)… let them gravitate to anything and praise!
Bring them to places where they will also see people reading… bookstores, library… they will start to see that reading is for enjoyment.
Let them pick books they’re interested in reading – even if it means they’re reading something you’re not super excited about. Graphic Novels are books! They’re awesome for encouraging a love of reading!
(By “not super excited about” I mean like character books – not books that are inappropriate or anything.)
It’s ok to give up on a book that’s not working. Forcing something that no one is enjoying is never fun. Put the book away and head to your library for something else. And if in doubt ask a librarian for their recommendations for books on a theme, topic or genre your kid enjoys.
When it comes to reluctant readers, I always think of that J.K. Rowling quote, “If you don’t like to read, you haven’t found the right book.” My biggest tip for parents or teachers looking to help reluctant readers is to first explore the child’s interests and then find a book that fits their personality. I used to give my students a self-evaluation sheet asking them to circle various activities they were interested in and then used that to help guide them to a book I thought they might like that was near their reading level.
Another tip I have is to be open minded. Many parents don’t love graphic novels, but reluctant readers do! There are a ton of graphic novels out there that not only have tons of kid appeal, but they also help children built important skills like reading with expression and better understanding punctuation. Because these books are highly illustrated, readers can use the pictures to help identify new words and better comprehend the story. Children may finish these stories quickly, but that isn’t necessarily a bad thing. It is a huge boost to their ego to be able to read the entire book and they will usually return for rereadings, which will help books their reading skills.
Many parents also worry when their child chooses a book that they believe is lower than their typical reading level or if they reread a book over and over. There are actually benefits for children rereading books or choosing books on a lower level. Rereading allows them to develop a deeper understanding of some of the nuances in the plot they may have missed the first time and it can be an opportunity to practice their fluency. Sometimes they need a break from all the difficult reading they may be doing in school. Many adults are able to read War and Peace, but very few do because they want something more entertaining. Kids are the same way.
Kids are figuring out their own reading identities and they have to have the freedom to explore and choose their own books.
Scholastic has two new groups of books aimed specifically for new/ reluctant readers that are fantastic!
Acorn Books are intended for children ages four to seven and contain an excellent combination of easy-to-read text, color illustrations, and engaging storylines featuring friendship stories, humor, and magic. They also include tips for drawing the characters to inspire budding writers to create their own stories.
The Branches Books are an ideal choice for those newly independent readers who are in between the easy reader stage and traditional chapter books. They have high-interest stories with simple plotlines that include easy-to-read text and illustrations that provide context clues and aid in reading comprehension.
Read TO your kids. That’s my tip!
let them read whatever they want. Blog, comic, graphic novel, book below grade level, I don’t care, as long as they are reading.
Honestly, I read this tip from Shannon over at @ohcreativeday about just continuing to read, read, read even when they don’t seem to be listening or don’t seem to care. So I probably read to my now toddler’s bum for months because she would just crawl away. So I think continuing to expose, even when they don’t seem interested, and creating a literacy rich environment would be my only tips!